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Marianne Paskowski

Can TV Ads Help Taco Bell?

December 14, 2006 2:30 PM

Weeks later, E. coli outbreaks continue to plague Yum ( now Yuck, to me) Brands-owned Taco Bell in more of the fast-fooder’s restaurants in the Northeast. First it was green onions, and now the culprit might be lettuce. Taco Bell finally hired a crisis management firm to help the eatery retain trust among its customers.

But plenty of Monday-morning quarterbacks are now saying the company has let the media deliver the story and that Taco Bell must seize control of the message. To date, the company has run print ads in several newspapers in markets where the outbreaks took place, saying, that “Taco Bell is Safe,” and is cooperating with media queries.

But other crisis management firms say that’s not enough: That Taco Bell needs to launch a broad, mainstream TV campaign that explains how the restaurant picks suppliers and maintains quality control. Yes, television is a powerful medium, but I doubt any amount of advertising, now, would convince viewers that the restaurants are safe. Do you really think a massive TV ad campaign will help Taco Bell at this stage? No way Jose.


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[...] Sister Toldja: Usually when you see the word “implicated” in a story or headline, it’s something along the lines of “Man implicated in the death of neighbor” or something like that. Lettuce being implicated, however, is something you don’t read much about as it relates to sinister activity … [...] [Read More]

Comments (7)

Jim Forkan:

Hi Marianne
No, I don't think a massive TV campaign alone will help Taco Bell. And I can't imagine anyone believes the "Taco Bell Is Safe" ads the chain is running in the E. coli markets.
How can they even say that without knowing what caused the outbreak in the first place?? First, it was onions (green or white), now lettuce. No, wait. They're not sure it's lettuce...
Until the testing nails down a culprit, there's not much Taco Bell can do beyond what it is doing: cleaning the restaurants, replacing the food. Still, I wouldn't eat there -- even if they ran a promotion whereby they paid me to do so!
My own suspicion is that, like the recent E.coli outbreak affecting spinach, this will ultimately be traced to California farms and contaminated irrigation water.

Marianne Paskowski:

One by one up here. Jim, I agree with you the ad blitz, if it happens is a waste of Taco Bell's money. Now time for a little confession on my part, I used to love that place for a quick taco.
No more. Can't wait to see how TB spins this whole mess. And yes, California could be a culprit here, just like the spinach. Well, so much for eating on the road.

Marianne Paskowski:

NI guess my reply goes to misunderestimation.com. Question? So what's with the lettuce, who are you? I didn't implicate anytihing about lettuce, I just recanted the facts. Do you eat at Taco Bell? Did you see the print ads? Do you believe the company is trying its best to fix this problem?

Recipe for National Disaster?

”We have a nation consisting of a growing number of single individual households – working adults with little time or inclination to cook at home. Additionally more and more overworked Moms and Dads are opting to give their children fast food meals at least once a day. Many of our 20-40 something folks are into healthy living which often includes a preference for eating loads of dark leafy veggies and salads at the local salad bar. How many meals do you eat out daily? Can you afford to trust your very life to just any restaurant? Should you risk eating the fresh produce you purchase at the grocery store? . . .”

To read the rest of the article go to “Taco Bell, Biodefense, and Illegal Immigration: You Connect the Dots”

I haven't been tracking Taco Bell's print and TV campaign, but I don't thnk a massive TV campaign with traditional :30s would solve anything. And neither will print ads. It needs to "think outside the bun" and hit the talk show ciricuit for a frank and open exchange of ideas and information, and make even more information available on its Web site than it already has. All of this should be tied to some philanthropic campaign that shows Yum! really cares about the human beings it serves -- and poisoned.

Fern Siegel:

The diamond industry is launching a $15 million ad campaign to defend blood diamonds, due to the film "Blood Diamonds," claiming the number is far less than stated. According to watchdog groups, it's far more. The food industry (see "Fast Food Nation") is a mess. Would i believe a Taco Bell exec about food safety? As much as i believe Bush, when he says the war is going well. Companies answer to their executive boards, which would toss their grandmothers off a building if it raised share price. TV can do many things -- for good and ill -- but it cannot, in Taco Bell's case, to quote the old adage: make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Marianne Paskowski:

This latest scare makes me think back to decades ago when J&J recalled Tylenol because some whack job had contaminated the product. The company was proactive, first taking action to fix the problem and subsequently running a TV ad campaign informing the public what was going on. I'm not seeing that here with Taco Bell. Albeit, it's a tougher problem to solve, given the earlier E.coli problems with spinach. And Faultline, thanx for the link, well worth the read. And to Janet and Fern, spot on with your remarks.

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