Taco Bell establishes youth panel

Taco Bell is establishing a long-term youth panel to help the fast-food marketer tap into youth culture and solicit advice on its impending Canadian expansion. The panel, which is being organized and run by the chain's Toronto-based advertising agency, TBWA Chiat/Day,...

Taco Bell is establishing a long-term youth panel to help the fast-food marketer tap into youth culture and solicit advice on its impending Canadian expansion.

The panel, which is being organized and run by the chain’s Toronto-based advertising agency, TBWA Chiat/Day, will comprise about a dozen young people. The group will advise the Mexican-food restaurant chain, best known for its chattering chihuahua spokesdog, which music and movies are considered cool as well as how best to market new food products here in Canada, says Shelagh Stoneham, Taco Bell’s director of marketing.

This is the first such panel for Taco Bell in either the U.S. or Canada. A similar panel is run by Pizza Hut in the U.S., she says.

‘We are rapidly expanding here and we want to hear what our core customers think,’ says Stoneham.

Tricon Global Restaurants (Canada), which owns and markets Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell, plans to open between 300 and 400 Taco Bell locations in the next five years.

Panelists were chosen by a recruiter last month for their outspoken nature and ability to keep up with trends. By keeping the panel small, informal and consistent, Taco Bell is hoping to avoid the pitfalls and canned answers that come out of typical focus groups, says Stoneham. The group will meet once a month and talk informally about what is happening in youth culture and their lives. The group will also be asked their opinion of new Taco Bell products and marketing.

The panel will not replace quantitative research done by the company, but is expected to help ‘fill in the blanks’ and capture the unique voice of the company’s core young consumers, she says.

Youth culture is typically difficult to understand and fraught with danger for the average marketer, says Jennifer Ralston, Taco Bell account director at Chiat/Day. With the establishment of the youth panel, the agency is hoping to help its client get a leg up on its competition.

‘There is not a lot of solid information out there on youth marketing and there is a very thin line between what is hip and what is definitely not hip,’ she says.

In the future, Chiat/Day is hoping to take any lessons learned and possibly create a permanent youth panel that could provide intelligence for the agency’s other clients.

Taco Bell has been left behind somewhat in the recent expansion of the fast food market in Canada. According to NPD Foodservice Information Group, the quick service restaurant (QSR) sector has grown by 24% over the past five years, and now accounts for 62% of all restaurant traffic. At the same time, however, the popularity of Mexican fare has waned in Canada, accounting for only 13% of all meals ordered in 1999 – a 7% drop from the previous year.

Google launches a campaign about news connections

The search engine is using archival footage to convey what Canadians are interested in.

Google Canada and agency Church + State have produced a new spot informed by research from the search giant that suggests it is a primary connector for Canadians to the news that matters to them – a direct shot across the bow of the legislators presently considering Bill C-18.

In a spot titled “Connecting you to all that’s news,” the search giant harnesses archival footage reflective of many of the issues Canadians care about deeply, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, truth and reconciliation and the war in Ukraine, to demonstrate the point that many Canadians turn to Google as a gateway to the information and news they’re seeking.

“From St. John’s to Victoria and everywhere in between, when Canadians want to understand or get updated on the most pressing topics, Google connects them to the news sources that provide it,” says Laura Pearce, head of marketing for Google Canada. “All of us at Google are proud to be that consistent and reliable connection for Canadians to the news they’re searching for.”

In some ways, the goal of the campaign was to tap into the varied emotional responses that single news stories can have with different audiences across the country.

“News may be factual, but how people respond to it can be very emotional,” explains Ron Tite, founder and CCO at Church + State. “Importantly, those emotions aren’t universal. One news story can create completely different reactions from different people in different places. Because of that, we simply wanted to let connecting to news be the focus of this campaign. We worked diligently to license a wide variety of actual news footage that we felt would resonate with Canadians.”

The campaign can be seen as a statement by the search provider on Bill C-18 – the Online News Act – that is currently being deliberated by a parliamentary committee. That legislation seeks to force online platforms such as Meta’s Facebook and Alphabet’s Google to pay news publishers for their content, echoing a similar law passed in Australia in 2021. The Act has drawn sharp rebukes from both companies, with Facebook threatening to ban news sharing on its platform.

Google Canada is not commenting on whether this new campaign is a response to C-18, but it has been public in its criticism of the legislation. In testimony delivered to parliament and shared on its blog, Colin McKay, the company’s head of public policy and government relations, said, “This is a history-making opportunity for Canada to craft world-class legislation that is clear and principled on who it benefits.” However, he noted that C-18 is “not that legislation.”

The campaign launched on Oct. 24 and is running through December across cinema, OLV, OOH, podcast, digital and social. Airfoil handled the broadcast production.