Singer Doja Cat leads a breakout from a stodgy clown college in Taco Bell’s Super Bowl ad, the first for the brand in five years.
The Deutsch LA-led commercial, which will air during the fourth quarter, celebrates the brand’s rebelliousness while taking a playful swipe at rivals like McDonald’s. And, like a Frito-Lay ad set to air in the second quarter, it features a current singer putting her own twist on a decades-old hit.
Taco Bell's 30-second ad opens in a dining hall at “Clownus Conformus,” where a clown on stilts turgidly inspects a table of bored clowns idly spinning plates, juggling and napping on balloon animals before trays of untouched food. In another thinly-disguised jab at McDonald's, a public address announcer relays that the ice cream machine is broken. Doja Cat lifts a clown hat off the table, and makes a discovery.
The aggressive power chords of Hole’s 1990s alternative anthem “Celebrity Skin” sound as a carful of clowns piloted by Doja Cat crashes through a security gate and skids onto a city street. The singer’s sad clown makeup washes away along with her passengers’ wigs and outfits as they speed their way toward a Taco Bell. Back at clown college, the remaining students find what Doja Cat saw—an envelope of Taco Bell’s “Fire” hot sauce.
The ad, titled “The Grande Escape,” comes on the 60th anniversary of the chain’s founding.
“It's about celebrating that little bit of difference that lives in all of us and being your own unique and authentic self,” said Tracee Larocca, Taco Bell’s head of brand creative. “The reason we feel that way is that when Glenn Bell opened a taco stand he did so in a burger world, so the core of our DNA is being a little different—and there’s some power in being different. It’s exciting and fun, it’s a little rebellious, and it makes you think you can find creative solutions to your problems.”
Larocca described a collaborative process in identifying an appropriate song to accompany the ad. Doja Cat expressed an interest in performing a cover outside of the hip-hop and pop fields she is best known for. “She’s a big Courtney Love fan, and so she brought the idea to cover 'Celebrity Skin,' bringing her own style to that,” Larocca said. “It’s a song about bearing one’s true self regardless of what others might think about you.”
Doja Cat reworked the lyric in collaboration with Love, switching up Love’s original couplet “A walking study/In demonology” to “A walking fire/You can’t get rid of me.” Travis Barker of the band Blink-182 plays drums on the track.
The campaign, which Larocca described as crafting a new definition for Taco Bell’s longtime “Live Más” slogan, will rely on Doja Cat to engage audiences on social media, participating in what Larocca called a “shop drop,” to be unveiled on Sunday with exclusive rewards for the chain’s loyalty members. This reflects one vision from the chain’s new global brand leader, Sean Tresvant, who came to Taco Bell from Nike’s prestigious Jordan brand a month ago.
“Sean brings a unique perspective as to how we can really lean into fully integrating our programs so that they come to life in film, in our restaurants, and in our loyalty programs,” Larocca said. “He's a champion of creativity and a big fan of the brand.”