CMO Q&A: David Ovens, Taco Bell

David Ovens of Taco Bell talks to Alexandra Bruell about wellness positioning, multicultural marketing, and online efforts for the brand.

David Ovens of Taco Bell talks  to Alexandra Bruell about wellness positioning, multicultural marketing, and online efforts for the brand.

Christine Dougherty's diet messaging campaign led to backlash, but also positive buzz for Taco Bell. How did marketing contribute to that shift in tone?

Ovens: Once the media or public has taken on board the full messaging, people have a better understanding. The second part of this is not a weight-loss conversation; it's providing them with better-for-you choices.

What was PR's significance in that campaign as opposed to more traditional platforms?

Ovens: She told her story firsthand to all media outlets as a PR initiative. We didn't vet, control, manage, or script her.

How does Taco Bell engage various consumer groups with its multicultural efforts?

Ovens: We must find the right balance between national messaging and focused messaging aimed at certain demographics or cultural groups. The LA DMA area channels a much bigger portion of its media and communications to the Hispanic population.

How does PR help you reach this audience nationally or regionally?

Ovens: We take the core messaging and repurpose it so it comes across to that population worded, structured, and totally creative.

Who do you reach best through outlets such as Facebook or Twitter?

Ovens: In an aggregated sense, the Taco Bell brand skews younger. For a core bull's-eye target, we're talking mid-20s.

How has the role of PR shifted in Taco Bell's marketing approach?

Ovens: Rather than generating peripheral or superfluous short-term PR buzz, we focus on bigger events in the brand's life. We have significant sponsorship commitments, through MLB, NBA, MTV, so one of the first goals is to best activate around those. Then there are more significant events, such as Drive-Thru Diet, that are strategically critical brand-building blocks.

What's the internal dynamic between PR and the other marketing teams at Taco Bell?

Ovens: Media and PR are in one group. Then we have brand experience, consumer insights, and brand marketing. All groups report to me. Everybody works around the same proposition.

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