Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Promotions Campaign Gone Awry - Taco Bell & 50 Cent

Taco Bell, owned by Yum Brands, found itself in hot water recently, when a promotions campaign with 50 Cent went awry.

This summer, Taco Bell sent an "open letter" over the PR wires, encouraging Fiddy (birth name Curtis Jackson) to drive up to a Taco Bell location, rap his order, and then change his name to 79, 89, or 99 Cent, just for the day. Yum Brands would then donate $10,000 to the charity of Fiddy's choice.

But Fiddy claims the marketer hadn't consulted him, and that the Taco Bell promotion gave the appearance of his consent. When he filed suit against Taco Bell in July, the story was picked up from hometown newspaper to E! online.

The story would have closed there, but last month a reporter following up on the story dug into the lawsuit records, including Taco Bell's answer to Fiddy's complaint. The answer refers to Fiddy as someone who uses his "colorful past to cultivate a public image of belligerence and arrogance." It also describes Fiddy as having a "well-publicized track record of making threats, starting feuds and filing lawsuits."

"They chose to kind of defame his character," Mr. Raymond said. "And yet they used his name without his permission in the advertising. I'm curious as to why they'd want to say what a bad character he is. I guess that's going to be their defense somehow."

Taco Bell spokesman Rob Poetsch declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said, "We're disappointed that Mr. Jackson didn't simply say yes or no to our genuine and charitable offer to change his name to 79, 89 or 99 Cent."

"Taco Bell and its Yum Brands counterparts are known for stretching the boundaries for free media plays. Last year, KFC offered to make a charitable contribution in the name of any person willing to do a chicken dance on the field during the Super Bowl. During March madness, Pizza Hut offered free pizza to the entire campus of any 16-seeded team that beat a top seed. It's still never been done. But while some of these plays have been controversial, none has risen to the level of acrimonious lawsuit."

source: Advertising Age story - "Taco Bell Pays the Price for Messing With 50 Cent", by Emily Bryson, published Nov. 25, 2008.

This past summer, Yum Brands and Taco Bell were also featured in Stoneyfield Farm's Climate Counts campaign on the Jack Johnson Tour, where fans learned of the brand's poor environmental record.

In addition to Taco Bell, Yum Brands owns Pizza Hut, Long John Silver's, KFC, and A&W All American Food.

According to Climate Count's blog:

"In our annual Climate Counts scores of well-known consumer companies on their commitment to addressing climate change, four out of six companies (Yum! Brands, Burger King, Darden Restaurants, and Wendy’s) in the food services sector made no improvements in their scores from 2007 to 2008. That’s in a year when 84% of the companies we scored actually improved their scores, some significantly. It adds insult to injury when you consider that those four companies earned scores of one point or even zero points on a 100 point scale (100 being the highest possible score) for two years running. (Two other food services companies, Starbucks and McDonald’s, score significantly higher than the other four but much lower than many other companies we’ve investigated.)

What do the scores mean? They mean these companies are not measuring their climate impact, they’re not substantively and comprehensively working to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, they’re not supporting good public policy on climate, and they’re not being open and transparent with consumers about any real commitment to making climate actions a part of long-term business strategy. These companies spend tens of billions of dollars every year on energy, and by some estimates, as much as 80% of that energy is wasted through outmoded buildings and restaurants and inefficient food storage. Their impact on climate and our communities is all too clear."

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