Notes From the Media Landscape: Taco Bell using consumer avatars in TV spot

In its first stab at consumer-generated advertising, the fast-food chain is breaking new ground.

During the MTV Video Music Awards on September 9, Taco Bell will air what’s arguably the next step in consumer-generated ads: a commercial starring the personal avatars of ordinary folks.

A virtual casting call was issued in the US earlier this month inviting wannabe stars to create digital representations of themselves by uploading photos. They were also asked to record a brief pitch as to why their likenesses should be chosen to appear in a Taco Bell commercial. Three consumer avatars will be adapted for a 30-second spot touting a ‘fourth meal,’ or late-night snack from guess who.

Dubbed ‘Taco Bell TV Me,’ the initiative came from Interpublic Group’s NYC-based DraftFCB. And, yes, there’s a viral element in that users can e-mail their pitches, upload them to YouTube and/or embed them in blogs.

The agency previously worked on a CGM-style commercial for KFC, also owned by Yum Brands, that ran in May. The spot used actual videos that had been uploaded to YouTube to raise awareness about the chain’s elimination of trans fats.

Taco Bell is promoting its personal avatar contest with a commercial created by MTV to run on that network, as well as a search and display ad campaign which includes placements on Facebook, MSN and Pogo.