Discovery, Taco Bell ink multiplatform ad pact

Sep 16, 2002  •  Post A Comment

In a partnership that marks the growing interest in brand-integration deals on both sides, Discovery Networks has inked an ad deal with Taco Bell across three of its cable TV platforms-Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet.
Terms of the pact were not disclosed, but according to Bill McGowan, executive VP of ad sales at Discovery Communications, parent of Discovery Networks, reeling in the Yum Brands chain as a first-time advertiser is a sign that the networks’ efforts to appeal to a younger audience is working. Taco Bell said that until now, Discovery hasn’t been seen as an appropriate environment to reach its core 18 to 34 target audience.
“Discovery’s National Geographic sensibility doesn’t seem compatible with our brand, but they’ve developed unique shows like `Monster Garage,’ which is Taco Bell-ish,” said Debbie Myers, VP of media services, entertainment and licensing at the fast feeder.
“Monster Garage”-a show beginning Sept. 30 and considered to be the cornerstone of the deal-is hosted by Jesse James, who, along with his crew, embarks on a reconstruction project such as converting a lightweight vehicle into a hot-air balloon. Product placement will be woven into the program as Mr. James and his crew will wolf down Taco Bell items while they work. Discovery has had success with product placement with advertisers such as Procter & Gamble Co.
“One of the great aspects of `Monster Garage’ is that it broadens the demographic reach of Discovery,” Mr. McGowan said. “It has a certain hip cachet.” This type of programming fits into the scheme of Billy Campbell, who joined Discovery Networks in June as president. Previously, he held positions at Miramax and Viacom’s CBS.
Ms. Myers and Mr. McGowan both say it is critical to integrate brands in a manner that does not jeopardize the integrity of either the show or the brand. “It has to be organic,” Ms. Myers said. “[The talent] can’t all of a sudden be saying, `Oh, I forgot to have my Taco Bell today.”’
Taco Bell has been exploring product placement, and was previously involved in “Murder in Small Town X” from News Corp.’s Fox. “Monster Garage” heralds a further exploration into alternate branding strategies as Taco Bell, like other marketers, confronts the cluttered media marketplace and commercial-avoidance digital video recording devices such as TiVo and Replay.
The challenging environment notwithstanding, Ms. Myers said her company will keep a cautious approach. “[Consumers] don’t come to our restaurants because we’re moviemakers,” she said. “I don’t see us hiring Ridley Scott to shoot a multimillion-dollar movie to run on the Internet,” a reference to the BMW Films Web series.