Taco Bell gives college students free rein to create 'Feed a Dream' campaign

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The chain taps Live Mas scholarship winners to promote the fifth anniversary of Doritos Locos Taco.

To promote its two-year-old Live Mas Scholarship, Taco Bell tapped its college student recipients—not its agencies—to conceive two, 30-second spots airing now on national television.

The "Feed a Dream" campaign aligns with the fifth anniversary of the brand’s most popular menu item, the Doritos Locos Taco, and advertises a feel-good promotion. For every Doritos Locos Taco sold through April 8, Taco Bell will donate 10 cents to its Live Mas Scholarship fund, up to $500,000.

"This is literally for the kids, by the kids," said Taco Bell Senior Manager of Advertising and Branded Content Brian Darney. "We wanted to not just leverage their stories, but have them tell it and invite them in as part of the overarching process."

In the first spot titled "A Great Thank You," recipient Meade Morrison raps his gratitude to all those who purchase a Doritos Locos Taco, whereas "Did You Know?" raises awareness of the scholarship and current promotion. Both represent the first time students have manufactured ads for the brand, but Taco Bell has given the recipients other opportunities, like outfitting the MTV Video Music Awards pre-show staff and sculpting the trophy given to the winner of the 2017 NBA All-Star Taco Bell Skills Challenge. 

By design, the Live Mas Scholarship awards "dreamers" who wouldn’t otherwise be considered for academic or athletic scholarships. There are no GPA or extracurricular activity stipulations to enter. The only requirement is that students submit a two-minute video in which they discuss their life’s passions. This less-stringent approach has introduced Taco Bell to creative individuals with intriguing backgrounds, and a handful of these students were called on to act, direct, write, edit and film the ads.

To conceive the "Feed a Dream" campaign, Taco Bell hosted a two-day creative workshop in January for the recipients in Chicago, where they worked alongside the Taco Bell Foundation AOR O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul and production studio Bow & Arrow staffers to create not only the campaign, but the in-store menu board, taco wraps and promotional materials. But Darney is careful to point out that the millennials ran the show, and the advertising creatives were merely there to advise.

"We really took it to heart when we said that this campaign was created by the kids," he said. "Even the little things that we would normally lean on our advertising agency for—a quick script change or wanting to maybe tinker with a piece of music within the edit—those are all things that typically happen very quickly." Working with students, however, can slow down the process. "We literally had to reach out to the kids and ask them how they wanted to approach it."

Previously, Taco Bell promoted its scholarship through an OKRP-created 60-second anthem that aired nationally on television during the college bowl games in late 2015 and early 2016. Last summer, the brand partnered with Upworthy and OKRP to launch a docu-series that highlighted how each student was making the most of their college education.

So far, Darney said Taco Bell has seen a "slight increase" in Doritos Locos Taco sales, which he attributes to working with the students. "What we're asking people to do is pay it forward by buying a taco for one of their friends and using #FeedADream to encourage people to go out there and buy more to help scholarship programs."

If successful, he expects the student-led campaign and the 10-cent donations to the fund from the taco sales to become a permanent part of Taco Bell’s brand strategy. "Part of the long-term goal for this thing is to continue to grow it, garner awareness for the program and help raise funds to support these kids," he said. "If this is another lever that we can pull, I think we should."