Taco Bell encourages breakfast prisoners to break free

The initiative "had to be disruptive work with PR built into it," said Brett Craig, executive creative director at Deutsch LA.

IRVINE, CA: Taco Bell is reigniting the breakfast wars with a new campaign that conjures up a vision of dystopia, encouraging consumers to break free from the drudgery of a fast-food breakfast.

The chain entered the breakfast category last year, with a provocative campaign by Deutsch LA, poking fun at McDonald’s mascot Ronald McDonald. In its new campaign, Taco Bell once again takes the category to task, highlighting the monotony of the circle-shaped breakfast sandwich.

The three-minute Routine Republic film, directed by Michael Spiccia, is reminiscent of the movie A Clockwork Orange, with an oppressive prison, representing the monotony of fast-food breakfast. Emboldened by a hexagon symbol, which is supposed to represent Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap, two prisoners escape to find a new land where they enjoy Taco Bell breakfast.

"The Routine Republic felt like a fun metaphor for the sea of sameness, blandness, and lack of choice that is fast-food breakfast," said Brett Craig, executive creative director at Deutsch LA.

He said the idea is to inject a bit of lightness and fun into the category.

"Without the wink in it, it doesn’t work," he said.

The film is layered with references to its competitors in the industry, linking them to the Routine Republic, such as a kiddie area and ball pool. Unlike the previous campaign, which called on real-life Ronald McDonalds to endorse Taco Bell’s breakfast item, this campaign doesn’t go after one competitor in particular, rather the category in general.

Within six months of Taco Bell’s breakfast launch, its breakfast awareness levels reached those of Burger King, which had been in the category for about 10 years at that point. Nationwide, franchisees had a record sales week during the launch, according to Deutsch LA.

According to Craig, the key takeaway from last year’s campaign is that the new creative "had to be disruptive work with PR built into it."

"Our main learning is to be bigger, louder, and make more of a splash than last year. It is daunting because it blew up in the media," he said.

Taco Bell recently switched up its PR agency roster, appointing DJE Holdings agencies to work on various aspects of its communications business. Edelman’s Washington, DC, office is handling corporate reputation and influencer engagement work, while Zeno Group will manage consumer PR. Market research unit Edelman Berland is overseeing research for the brand, while entertainment marketing firm United Entertainment Group is taking the lead on content partnerships.

The fast-food chain previously worked with Taylor since 2010.

In addition to the three-minute spot, there is a propaganda film, available on a dedicated Routine Republic site, two TV-spots directed by Kris Bellman, and out-of-home advertising, featuring propaganda-style posters.

For the PR component of this campaign, Taco Bell is running an influencer effort with its super fans, sending out "defector kits" to spread the word about breakfast defection. A Breakfast Defectors site will host the real-life stories of consumers who have changed their breakfast routines.

Last year, McDonald’s responded with an image on its Instagram account of Ronald McDonald, patting a small dog with the caption, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

Let’s see whether Ronald will take the bait this year.

This story originally appeared on Campaign US.

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