How Brands Like Taco Bell Are Buying Into Local

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sAs director of media at Digitas, the digital agency of record for Taco Bell, Eric Perko was the mind behind the fast food restaurant’s massive breakfast menu launch earlier this year. Speaking with‘s Alex Salkever at Street Fight Summit West in San Francisco on Tuesday, Perko described his agency’s role in developing Taco Bell’s breakfast campaign, along with where digital marketing is headed for large brands and franchise businesses.

“Digital as a whole is pretty new for Taco Bell. They were traditionally a very broadcast-focused brand,” Perko said. “Our digital strategy that we went in with was to be 100% mobile. How we did that was a risk, but they were aligned with that risk.”

For Taco Bell’s breakfast campaign, Perko and his team were charged with finding ways to change their customers’ morning habits. To break into consumers busy morning routines, the agency messaged consumers across weather apps, Instagram, news apps, streaming audio platforms (like Pandora), and the navigation app Waze.

Taco Bell worked with Waze in two main ways: with in-app messages that popped up when drivers were stopped at stoplights, and branded pins that integrated into Waze’s maps. The partnership was a departure for Taco Bell, a brand that Perko described as relatively conservative.

“Buying across an exchange and not really knowing where our ad is showing up, for the most part, isn’t something we’re comfortable with yet,” Perko said. “Most of the time we want to align with a particular kind of content, and know exactly where our ads are showing up.”

In the two years since Digitas began working with Taco Bell, Perko says the market has changed rapidly. But with a client like Taco Bello, which sells products exclusively offline, attributions remains a critical challenge. Perko expects that to change somewhat with the launch of Taco Bell’s mobile ordering app. He says the app will open up possibilities for tracking success for mobile and digital campaigns.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.