Team Taco Bell dropped the ball this week, when their trash-talking anti-vegetable TV commercial was blocked by an aggressive Twitter campaign by irate people from Team Green.
Taco Bell admitted that it fumbled badly when it dissed folks who might opt for vegetables, instead of its meaty taco 12-pack. In the ad, the voiceover says that serving vegetables to football fans is like "punting on fourth and one" and that "it's a copout and secretly, people kind of hate you for it."
On Sunday the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest reacted, suggesting that veggie eaters unite and tweet their thoughts to Taco Bell. The Twitter campaign succeeded in getting the company to pull the ad before game day.
CSPI Nutrition Policy Director Margo G. Wootan said in a statement: "It's bad enough that there aren't many ads on television for broccoli, kale, or carrots. The last thing healthy fruits and vegetables needed was to be the subject of attack ads. We are delighted that Taco Bell is pulling an ad that urged people not to bring veggie trays to their Super Bowl parties, but to instead bring 12-packs of Taco Bell's tacos."
Wootan went on to thank Taco Bell "for responding with record speed to address nutritionists' and consumers' concern over this ad campaign."
Taco Bell spokesman Rob Poetsch released a statement saying that the company loves vegetables: "In fact, each year we serve our customers more than 45 million pounds of tomatoes, 122 millions of pounds of lettuce, 7 million pounds of onions and 412 thousand pounds of cilantro. When we realized the ad was misconstrued, we sided with the vegetables and pulled it."
No word on how many pounds of vegetables are going to be stuffed into the company's Doritos Tacos Locos, which are on the way.
Twitter clearly has super-sized the ability of the public to express its point of view, but word of mouth has always been a powerful tool, Tom Collinger, executive director of the Spiegel Research Initiative at Northwestern University, told Squid Ink in a phone interview.
"Of all the different ways in which people have been influenced, especially when it regards making choices about products, brands and services, word of mouth has always been the highest on the hierarchy of influence," said Collinger. "Now we're in a world where the ability to share what you think has just gotten oh so much easier."
He pointed out that while vegetarians are not Taco Bell's target audience, nevertheless the company "smartly is paying attention to the Zeitgeist, to public sentiment. Sometimes, negative word of mouth, even if it's representing a view that is not coming from the voice of your target audience, certainly is one that could influence the sense of the core value of the enterprise."
Editor's note: The headline of this post has been changed since the piece was originally published. Thanks, Taco Bell PR team! As they helpfully emailed us: "the ad pulled was NOT a Super Bowl ad, but a commercial to promote our Taco 12 Pack."
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