Taco Bell celebrates life’s messy moments

Who: Taco Bell, with Dentsu One for strategy and creative, Soft Citizen for production (directed by Mashie Alam), Wavemaker for media, casting by Jigsaw, and post-production by Nimiopere, Studio Feather and Grayson.

What: “Beautiful Mess,” the first made-for-Canada Taco Bell brand campaign. It’s built around the idea that tacos are a messy food, and Taco Bell celebrates those who are comfortable with their own “messy” lives.

When & Where: The campaign began March 7 and will run indefinitely. There’s a video ad running on TV and online, along with influencer content (Twitch and TikTok) and other activations rolling out through the rest of the year.

Why: Taco Bell is going after a younger psychographic with “Beautiful Mess.” On paper, it’s Gen Z, but it can be anyone with a free spirit who relates to the “beautiful mess” ethos of being authentic no matter how “messy” that may be, explained Devon Lawrence, senior brand manager for Taco Bell Canada.

Taco Bell’s Canadian advertising has traditionally been product or promo focused, said Lawrence. “We haven’t spent much time showing off our personality or who we are in a mass brand campaign.”

In a category still dominated by burgers and pizza, Taco Bell likes to think of itself as the alternative QSR, with a brash, colourful (purple, pink and black) personality. “We like to celebrate that being different,” she said. This campaign is about celebrating those people who are equally proud to be different—even if it sometimes gets messy.

How: The brand platform launched with a video ad (15 seconds on TV, and 45 seconds online) that shows young, “messy” characters with an unapologetic IDGAF attitude, in familiar real-life moments. It opens with a break-up text reading “You’re just… kind of a mess” before showing the characters going through their own moments—messily enjoying their Taco Bell, and unmistakably happy about who they are.

The characters are also tied back to the food, said Lawrence, with each one embodying one of the four key Taco Bell brand attributes: Crunchy, messy, cheesy and spicy.

“We want to celebrate the fact that we’re these different things, so what we’ve tried to do is personify those food equities,” said Lawrence. “And so we’ve tried to come up with these relatable scenarios, that bring all those aspects to life.”

The casting was crucial to accomplishing that objective in authentic way, she said. “If we say we want to celebrate people that are confident and proud of being themselves… then let’s make sure that we find real people that represent that,” she said.

Beyond the video: Taco Bell will be working with influencers it describes as “young culture shapers,” though nothing has been released yet. “We’re still figuring out exactly what we want to do,” said Lawrence. “I think being in this place of celebrating messiness, there is a lot of paths that we can go down and a lot of places that we can play. We kind of want to play in them all and see what resonates.”

And we quote: “In a world full of idealized products and people, there’s something so wonderful in recognizing the messy side of it all. Taco Bell fans are just so themselves in everything they do, there’s a lot of inspiration to find there, and a lot of similarities in Taco Bell’s delicious offerings.” —Adam Notzl-Keyser, Dentsu One’s creative director.

David Brown