Cannes Lions

Doja Cat x Taco Bell: A "Contractual" Partnership

DEUTSCH LA, Los Angeles / TACO BELL / 2023

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Overview

Background

The year is 2020: Taco Bell announces its removal of many popular menu items, including the fan favorite, Mexican Pizza. Fans are forced to survive in a world without, doing everything they can to get it back. They start to create petitions on change.org, hold funerals for the product, write protest songs, and flood social with demands to “Bring Back Mexican Pizza.” Soon one of our biggest, most popular, and most vocal detractors is none other than Doja Cat. As a huge fan of the Mexican Pizza, she is devastated by its departure and makes this widely known online.

Given the negative sentiment from fans, the brief became two-fold: 1. Shift fan perceptions of the brand from being angry and upset that Mexican Pizza is off the menu to being excited that it is returning, and 2. Increase sales of the Mexican Pizza upon its return.

Idea

Under this strategic role for her, she partnered with the brand and used her “power” to sabotage the partnership and demand a Mexican Pizza comeback every chance she got. From writing a diss track (aka “jingle”), to retweeting fan demands, to sending Taco Bell hate tweets, and ultimately to announcing Mexican Pizza’s return during her set on the Coachella stage, Doja Cat remained true to the Mexican Pizza Anti-Hero role throughout the entire campaign.

Strategy

The strategy for the multi-month campaign was to turn Doja Cat into our anti-hero. Our back and forth on Twitter let her use her authentic voice rather than a brand-scripted one, even when it made us sweat. She “leaked” our Super Bowl commercial on Instagram Live to 25M followers. When we wanted her to announce Mexican Pizza's return, she announced on the biggest stage of the year: Coachella. And when we asked her to rap about Mexican Pizza, she let fans know her jingle was "contractual," wrote it live on IG (while cursing us), and dropped it on TikTok. Her video inspired fans to create a mock Mexican Pizza musical rehearsal—which we turned into a real musical for TikTok. The campaign generated 10B earned impressions, 80k earned media and social posts, and 45M Mexican pizzas sold. This set a new standard for how brands collaborate with celebrity partners.

Execution

First, to help seed the organic nature of the partnership, we licensed a Doja Cat song in a commercial. This gave Doja Cat a reason to tweet us and let the world know that she was now a #TacoBellPartner. From there, Doja Cat repeatedly asked for Taco Bell to bring back the Mexican Pizza, and we publicly resisted. Doja Cat then found multiple opportunities to “sabotage” the brand—she “leaked” our Super Bowl campaign where she covered Hole’s “Celebrity Skin,” did a 2-hour IG Live writing a Mexican Pizza “jingle” (which dissed the brand for not bringing it back), and even retweeted tons of fans who also demanded the Mexican Pizza. She released her jingle on TikTok as a final push, and then ultimately used her Coachella stage to announce her victory: The Mexican Pizza was officially back.

Outcome

The last time the Mexican Pizza was available, it sold 20 per store per day. With this relaunch campaign, that number shot to 264—a 1220% increase. Within two weeks, all Mexican Pizzas were sold out, system-wide. Between April and June 2022, there were more than 20 million Mexican Pizzas sold. This caused overall Taco Bell sales to jump 8%, and loyalty rewards membership sign-ups increased by 10%.

The campaign itself garnered 71.3 Million views on TikTok and over 10 Billion earned impressions. And Taco Bell was recognized as #5 on Fast Company’s Most Innovative Brands of 2023 because of the campaign, which is being heralded by press as being the future of celebrity endorsements.

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