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False-Advertising Suit Is Withdrawn, but Taco Bell Stays on the Offensive

Fast-Feeder Indulges in a Little Gloating in Print, Video Campaign Aimed at Law Firm That Brought Claim

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"Would it kill you to say you're sorry?"

That's the first line of copy in Taco Bell's latest campaign, launched today, that is aimed at the firm responsible for filing -- and yesterday withdrawing -- a false-advertising lawsuit Jan. 19 against the fast feeder for claiming to use "seasoned beef" or "seasoned ground beef" in its fare.

Taco Bell print ad

View Taco Bell's print ad

Taco Bell announced yesterday that the law firm, Beasley Allen, voluntarily withdrew the class action lawsuit against the company. A spokeswoman for Beasley Allen declined to comment on this story.

"We stand behind the quality of every single one of our ingredients, including our seasoned beef, and we want consumers to know that we didn't change our marketing or product because we've always been completely transparent," Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed said in a statement today. Calls to Taco Bell for additional comment were not returned by press time.

The January lawsuit charged that Taco Bell misleads consumers when it says its restaurants serve "seasoned ground beef" or "seasoned beef" and is actually serving "taco meat filling," while the remainder consists mainly of "extenders" and other non-meat substances. Taco Bell reacted quickly, launching an aggressive national campaign within days of the suit to fend off those charges, taking out full-page ads and launching YouTube videos, among other strategies, in an effort to be transparent about what ingredients its "seasoned beef" or "seasoned ground beef" contains.

Taco Bell is using a media mix similar to the one it used for the campaign in January, taking full-page ads in national publications including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today, as well as in local newspapers such as Birmingham News, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Montgomery Advertiser, Mobile Press Register, New York Post and Orange County Register. The company also has a campaign to reach its Hispanic customers.

The print copy reads: "Would it kill you to say you're sorry? The law firm that brought false claims about our product quality and advertising integrity has voluntarily withdrawn their class action suit against Taco Bell. No changes to our products or ingredients. No changes to our advertising. No money exchanged. No settlement agreement. Because we've ALWAYS used 100% USDA-inspected premium beef."

The print ads, as well as a Hispanic campaign, were created by Interpublic Group of Cos.' DraftFCB, Taco Bell's agency of record.

CEO Greg Creed comments on the withdrawal of the class action suit against Taco Bell.

Also like the first campaign to combat the lawsuit, Taco Bell is launching YouTube video featuring Mr. Creed speaking about the withdrawal of the lawsuit. The video will be placed on the company's YouTube channel, Facebook page and website, and will be supported with an online campaign on search engines and in social media.

Taco Bell's brand buzz had increased in March, according to YouGov's BrandIndex survey results. It was No. 1 on YouGov's Top Ten Biggest Buzz "improvers" -- meaning Taco Bell got the biggest positive boost in word-of-mouth in March from adults 18 and over. The company's March buzz was indexed at 7.5, up from -6.1 in February. (YouGov BrandIndex's scores range from 100 to -100 and are compiled by subtracting negative feedback from positive.) Taco Bell took a steep dive in buzz score from the end of January through Feb. 8 -- from 17.1 down to a -10.3 -- during the initial weeks of the first campaign. The company then shot up to a peak of 13.9 on March 23. But YouGov said Taco Bell is not where it was before the suit was filed. The fast feeder has slid back from that 13.9 peak to 5.

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