Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet: Ad Malfunction or Just a Bad Joke?

taco bell diet commercialThe end of the year brings the joy of the family gatherings with the food, wine, cakes, cookies, AKA over indulgence which leads to those unwanted pounds, prompting that new years resolution to lose those pesky pounds. Every year same thing so, it was not surprising to see a major fast food chain jump on the weight loss bandwagon. Taco Bell has taken their Fresco menu items and created the Drive-Thru Diet menu featuring 7 items with under 9 grams of fat. Great! Way to identify that there is a weight problem and kudos for bringing their Fresco menu items to the forefront as they have been on the menu for a while but they were concentrating on the high calorie foods in the Value Menu.

View Drive-Thru Diet Menu commercial.

Seriously? What were they thinking? I recognize that they are making an attempt to combat the problem and also increase sales during the first quarter as fast food sales have taken a dive but it is another ad gone bad.

Ad Malfunction or Bad Joke?

1. Copy cat. Does Jared/Subway ring a bell? Person loses weight eating their food and they become spokesperson. Food is not considered nor the caloric content, just the premise of the ad.

2. Word Play. Diet! As diet is about the food you consume and balancing it all, they are using it as a “regimen of eating and drinking sparingly as to reduce one’s weight” (definition per Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary). In their defense, they do disclaim by saying:

“DRIVE-THRU-DIET IS NOT A WEIGHT-LOSS PROGRAM. FOR A HEALTHIER LIFESTYLE, PAY ATTENTION TO TOTAL CALORIE AND FAT INTAKE AND REGULAR EXERCISE. TACO BELL’S FRESCO MENU CAN HELP WITH CALORIE REDUCTIONS OF 20 TO 100 PER ITEM COMPARED TO CORRESPONDING PRODUCTS ON OUR REGULAR MENU. NOT A LOW CALORIE FOOD. FOR COMPLETE NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION PLEASE VISIT TACOBELL.COM”

3. Social Media. Their @TacoBell twitter account has people ridiculing the commercial and the menu.  Also, many, many forums are having a field day tearing this campaign apart. I believe that says just about more than I can.

This entire campaign could have been a major success and not a mockery of weight loss. I have spoken to many people and they all found it laughable and damaging to the Taco Bell overall brand. All is not bad as they did do a few things right:

1. Target Market. I saw this commercial during a football game on CBS on a Sunday and I agree that targeting football watchers to keep Taco Bell top of mind for the halftime or after the game run for a quick bite. I am on board here. This is just 1 segment of their target.

2. Identify Problem. Look we know there is a weight problem in the US as we hear the numbers of the fattest cities. They are trying to do their part and stay afloat during these tough times. Good for you to identify problem but whoa, execution issues.

3. Worked Within. The Fresco menu has been around for a while and instead of creating new items, they worked with what they had and did create a campaign exclusively for this complete with its own domain name. They seem to have forgotten about social media marketing as there is not a separate Twitter account nor a separate FB for this campaign (not that these 2 tools are the end all but their popularity would make one think that they would have a presence that is different from the main Taco Bell pages) Also, their copyright on the site is 2010 … a few days short folks.

My thoughts on how to make this a successful campaign:

Theme. This could have been brilliant if they took the time to consider those starting a diet. A diet is about saying no to certain foods, reducing calories and exercise. Change the spot to directly target those people who feel the word diet is a 4-letter word. Something like Starting a Diet? Don’t go cold turkey, we have 7 items with less than 9 grams of fat on our Drive-Thru Diet menu (consider changing that to Walk-In Diet Menu to get the exercise part going) to get you started. Or go to the ingredients and say that we got rid of the cheese and replaced with salsa (salsa has less calories than cheese). It is more on the lighter side and I am not suggesting that weight loss needs to be taken lightly but they would have been so much more credible and well received.

Social media marketing. There is a presence with the corporate Taco Bell but they need a separate presence with this campaign as you have the separate domain name. Also, this is tanking and could have easily gone away with the click of delete page. Having this on the main page is just a bad choice. Yes it is a part of the overall brand and I respect that but they made it go to a separate domain. Be consistent.

There are so many more things they could have done – let me know your thoughts!

This is a big brand and it is amazing that they did not have the resources available to understand weight loss and what it means to people and how they can make a difference in just getting them to start. They had a better chance of success if they used this as a getting started to weight loss than trying to have this be about an overall weight loss program.

Second failure this week. What is happening in advertising as we close out this decade?

What do you think about this campaign? Do you believe it? Would you go and eat there or does it persuade you to abandon the brand all together?  How damaging do you think this will be to the brand? It is not looking real good right now.

photo credit: LA Times