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Makers of Taco Bell ad applying for film credit

Posted: July 20, 2012 - 12:12am
In this Sunday, July 1, 2012, photo provided by Taco Bell, a Taco Bell truck lands in front of the Cultural Center in Bethel, Alaska. On cable TV, the residents of Bethel, could see the ads for Taco Bell, McDonald's and Olive Garden, but had few ways to get them. So when rumors began swirling about Taco Bell coming to town, there was joy. It turned out to be a hoax, and now Taco Bell officials are trying to right a wrong, flying in food for the locals. (AP Photo/Taco Bell, Harvey Ranola)  Harvey Ranola
Harvey Ranola
In this Sunday, July 1, 2012, photo provided by Taco Bell, a Taco Bell truck lands in front of the Cultural Center in Bethel, Alaska. On cable TV, the residents of Bethel, could see the ads for Taco Bell, McDonald's and Olive Garden, but had few ways to get them. So when rumors began swirling about Taco Bell coming to town, there was joy. It turned out to be a hoax, and now Taco Bell officials are trying to right a wrong, flying in food for the locals. (AP Photo/Taco Bell, Harvey Ranola)

ANCHORAGE — Makers of a Taco Bell commercial showing a delivery of free tacos to a remote Alaska town have applied for a tax credit under the state’s film incentive program.

The pending application will be reviewed Friday, Wanetta Ayers, director of the state Division of Economic Development, said Thursday.

Taco Bell spokesman Rob Poetsch said he doesn’t know how much money was spent on the Alaska taco project. Culver City, Calif.-based HSI Productions, which produced the commercial, did not immediately provide a cost figure.

The 30-second commercial shows crowds in the western Alaska town of Bethel erupt into joyous cheers as a helicopter lowers a food wagon July 1. Then locals rushed over to the wagon. “Who wants tacos?” a Taco Bell worker shouts to the excited throng.

The fast food chain flew up enough ingredients to make 10,000 tacos after it heard of a hoax that led people to believe a Taco Bell was opening up in the community of about 6,000. Only about 6,000 tacos were served, and the remaining ingredients were returned for use in Anchorage stores.

Word of the hoax spread quickly across the country.

Bethel has restaurants, but Subway is the only fast-food chain in town, 400 miles west of Anchorage. Residents craving other chains would have to fly to Anchorage or some other urban part of the state. So when people learned they weren’t getting a second fast-food choice, many were disappointed.

“When we heard about the hoax that a Taco Bell was coming to Bethel, we immediately decided to do the right thing and feed the community,” Brian Niccol, a Taco Bell spokesman who attended the Bethel event, said in a statement. “We wanted to capture and raise awareness of this unique and special moment, so we created videos for our social and digital channels, and launched a nationwide television spot.”

The delivery was a big deal for locals, Bethel City Manager Lee Foley said. Yes, Taco Bell probably got really good publicity out of it, he said. But the community got a lot of pleasure out of it, as well.

“There were people going back for seconds and thirds,” Foley said. “People were saying, now how do we get a Burger King or a McDonald’s here?”

Alaska’s incentive program is credited with luring a growing number of TV, feature film and other productions to the far north. The program, which began running in late 2009, to date has approved a total of almost $31.4 million in tax credits for almost four dozen productions.

spending a total of more than $96 million in the state.

The program provides incentives including a 30 percent tax credit to qualifying productions spending at least $100,000 in the state. Added incentives for Alaska hires, as well as rural and offseason, raise credits to a maximum of 44 percent. The program uses a broker system, where studios or producers sell — or broker — their tax credits to companies that have a tax liability in the state.

The state official, Ayers, said her marketing background makes her appreciate the commercial opportunity the taco giveaway presented to Taco Bell.

“If a story like this captures the national psyche, you want to capitalize on that,” she said. “This is a textbook case of mobilizing your marketing resources.”

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