Since 2006, Taco Bell's Feed The Beat program has supported more than 600 rising music acts with $500 in gift certificates to help keep them fed on the road. And in more recent years, the company has extended its outreach to the music industry by including Feed The Beat bands and their music in its national TV advertising, most notably with Passion Pit, whose single "Take A Walk" charted on the Hot 100 last September as a direct result of its use in a Taco Bell commercial that aired during last year's Video Music Awards.
As a sequel of sorts to that breakout moment, Taco Bell is using the date of this year's VMAs, Sunday Aug. 25, to premiere "Hello Everywhere," a feature-length "rockumentary" film directed by Sam Jones ("I Am Trying To Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco") and chronicling the journey to South By Southwest 2013 for two Feed The Beat bands, Passion Pit and Wildcat! Wildcat! Vevo will host the official premiere on Sunday, but you can stream it exclusively here through VEVO.
The film was shot on location in Austin, with additional concert footage filmed with the help of bloggers and influencers like YouTube personality Tyler Oakley and Warner Bros. band Blondfire (full disclosure: this reporter was one of them.)
As a sponsor of the VMA telecast, Taco Bell will air three commercials -- two promoting the release of "Hello Everywhere" featuring Wildcat! Wildcat!'s "Mr. Quiche" and Passion Pit's "Take A Walk," while a third will promote its brand-new Fiery Doritos Tacos Locos. Additionally, Taco Bell is hosting the final VMA pre-party in New York City at Webster Hall, with performances from The Neighbourhood, New Politics and Wildcat! Wildcat!
Chris Brandt, Taco Bell's new chief marketing officer since May and a three-year veteran with the company, says music-related efforts like Feed The Beat and now "Hello Everywhere" have helped the fast-feeder maintain an "emotional connection" with its target consumer, in ways that standalone 30-second TV spots can't always do. "One of the things Taco Bell has tried to do in order to be more relevant with our fans is really nurture their creative spirit," Brandt says.
"Whether it's music, sports, or in food," he continued, "the Feed The Beat platforms have been a great jumping-off point for us. We saw this documentary as a way to change things up a bit, through content that will be really relevant to them and for us. One of the catchphrases we have is, 'Feed The Beat brings bands to fans and fans to bands.' [Passion Pit and Wildcat! Wildcat!] are two bands at different life stages and we wanted to show both sides of that experience."
In addition to hundreds of dollars in free food, Taco Bell brings a hefty ad budget in potential exposure to the table, too: it spent $280 million on measured media in 2012, according to Kantar Media, and is also a partner of the NBA and Major League Baseball. And although there are always new products to launch (Doritos Tacos Locos broke a record for the most successful launch in fast-food history last year; a breakfast menu is up next), the goal for Feed The Beat is to be part of the long haul. "There's things you do to sell product, and then there's things you sort of have to do because it's the right to do," Brandt says. "We'll measure impressions we pick up and to see that we're heading in the right direction for people to eventually come and buy things from us. Music is a great vehicle for reaching consumers, particularly the millennial consumer, and many bands see the benefit as well. It's a win-win for everyone."