Archive for January 28th, 2011

Taco Bell is launching an advertising campaign Friday to fight back against a lawsuit charging its taco filling isn’t beef.

The fast-food chain placed full-page print ads in Friday’s editions of the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Times and other papers as well as online ads to “set the record straight,” company President Greg Creed told The Associated Press.

The print ads say, in huge letters, “Thank you for suing us. Here’s the truth about our seasoned beef.” They go on to outline the meat’s ingredients. The chain did not say how much it is spending on the campaign, but such ads in national newspapers can cost more than $100,000.

The class-action lawsuit was filed late last week in federal court in California. It claimed Taco Bell falsely advertised its products as “beef.” The suit alleges that the fast-food chain actually uses a meat mixture in its burritos and tacos that contains binders and extenders and does not meet requirements set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be labeled beef.

Taco Bell quickly denied the accusation. “The lawsuit is bogus and filled with completely inaccurate facts,” Taco Bell President Creed said in an interview.

The lawsuit, filed by the Alabama law firm Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, doesn’t specify what percentage of the mixture is meat. But the firm’s attorney Dee Miles said the firm had the product tested and found it contained less than 35 percent beef. The firm would not say who tested the meat or give any other specifics of the analysis.

Taco Bell says its seasoned beef contains 88 percent USDA-inspected beef and the rest is water, spices and a mixture of oats, starch and other ingredients that contribute to the “quality of its product.” The company said it uses no extenders.

Still, the company couldn’t ignore the case after it made headlines and quickly spread online.

“This is one of those things that could be a humongous threat to their brand, which is why Taco Bell has taken such an aggressive stance on this,” said Marc Williams, an attorney at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough with extensive experience in fast-food litigation.

The case, Williams said, is thin in potential legal liability. Lawyers would have to prove that most consumers expect and believe they are getting something other than what Taco Bell actually serves. Most fast-food customers, he said, realize taco meat has other ingredients besides beef. And the lawsuit cites U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines for labeling ground beef, which don’t apply to restaurants.

The USDA’s rules apply to meat processors — the companies Taco Bell buys its meat from. Tyson Foods Inc., the company’s largest meat supplier, said it mixes and cooks the meat at three USDA-inspected plants and that the meat is tested daily to make sure it meets requirements.

Claims of false advertising typically are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission.

Industry and public relations executives say it’s critical for the company to respond forcefully to head off damage to its reputation. However, most say it’s unlikely to seriously dent Taco Bell’s image or business, which serves 35 million people a week.

“I don’t think the impact is going to be all that large,” said Janney Capital Markets analyst Mark Kalinowski. “It lacks the sensationalism of (other cases).”

Wendy’s, for example, had its image temporarily tarnished by a woman who falsely claimed that she found part of a finger in her chili. And it’s not the huge recalls that have stung some food makers.

Other restaurants have faced similar cases without being hurt much.

Rubio’s Restaurants Inc. faced a lawsuit in 2006 when a disgruntled customer felt that it was misleading people by selling lobster tacos and burritos at its Mexican restaurant chain made with langostino, a different species from the classic Maine lobster. The company settled the case by offering California customers coupons.

Yum Brands Inc., Taco Bell’s parent company, would not say if there has been any impact on its sales, citing a quiet period before its earnings release on Feb. 3.

Fast food generally does contain additives, such as the “isolated oat product” (usually used as a flavor and moisture enhancer) found in Taco Bell’s meat, but experts say they’re no different than whats in processed foods sold in stores.

“There is nothing really frankenfood in here,” said Karen Ansel, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “These are in a lot of foods we eat.”

The lawsuit doesn’t specify monetary damages but asks the court to order Taco Bell to stop marketing it under its current terms.

“That leads me to believe it’s more about generating publicity and legal fees for a lawyer than correcting a societal wrong,” Williams said.



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Classic Lucy

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The screaming you heard yesterday was the collective voices of Smallville and Supernatural fans as they learned their beloved shows would not be returning from hiatus on schedule.

The CW, one day before Smallville and Supernatural were set to air, sent an announcement around that instead of returning on their promoted January 28th date, re-runs of Vampire Diaries and Nikita would fill the time-slots and new episodes are set to return next Friday, February 4th. This, of course, did not sit well with fans and they took out their frustrations on blogs, Twitter, and by sending feedback directly to the CW demanding to know why. The official reasons given for the delay were two-fold, both favoring Vampire Diaries and Nikita.

Preempted In Certain Markets: Thursday night’s episodes of Vampire Diaries and Nikita were preempted in two major markets. Chicago viewers were instead treated to the mayoral debate and Baltimore stations were showing the basketball game. Chicago is the 3rd largest television market in the country and Baltimore is the 26th largest, which played a huge role in the ultimate decision. Since both these cities would have to air new episodes on a delayed schedule, it would negatively affect other shows’ time-slots and throw a wrench in plans nationwide.

Competition Against American Idol: Vampire Diaries returned with an all-new episode, but its competition was the ratings giant American Idol. That’s not good news for the vampire-centric show. In order to get a true feeling of viewership in a non-competing market, the CW decided to repeat the shows a day after in order to boost ratings. The hope is that viewers who would not normally catch the two shows will gain interest and tune in again, as well as helping out fans who may have missed the episodes that aired on Thursday.

However, this seems to be extremely poor decision-making on CW’s part. If a change such as this were to be made, it should have been done much earlier in the month and not in a rush a day before. Not only has the move angered fans, but it also may have done some larger damage to the viewership of Smallville and Supernatural. A change this late in the game is bound to have repercussions and here are just a few.

Loss Of Promotional Money And Validity: For over a month, the CW has been airing promos with the January 28th return date of Smallville and Supernatural. It’s stuck in the minds of regular viewers and non-viewers alike. Everyone knew the date, it was marked down in calendars, the countdown had begun. Now, the network has flushed that budget down the drain because it was inaccurate. They have lost trust in their promotions since they have proven to be untrue. Viewers will now be left wondering if future promotional dates will be changed at the last minute, too.

Loss Of Buzz Lead-Up: The network had sent out screeners of the new episodes earlier this week to reviewers. In doing so, they got early buzz from the industry about how great these episodes would be and how the countdown to return had begun. Additionally, this got fans excited and the new episodes were anxiously awaited. Now, none of that buzz can be maintained. Promotional articles are a week too early, the buzz will die down, and the reminder of a return will be marred by the memory of why fans are getting their new episodes a week later than usual.

Loss Of Viewers: While it is true that devoted fans of Smallville and Supernatural, while voicing their extreme displeasure over the delay, will likely tune in next week, that’s not going to be necessarily true for everyone. Some viewers may be fed up with the way they have been treated and simply tune out, going to another network to get their entertainment. Additionally, casual viewers who had seen the dated promotional ads and were planning on tuning in are going to be in for a surprise. They will not know of the change, so instead of finding a new show they might have watched, they change the channel and never come back.

It’s poor planning on the part of the CW and a very bad situation for fans of all four shows. Vampire Diaries and Nikita may suffer some backlash because of the change, while Smallville and Supernatural fans are being given the short end of the stick.

Hey, CW, remember when Supernatural fans won the cover of TV Guide? Yeah, you’re welcome.

Copied From: http://www.spoilertv.com/2011/01/supernatural-and-smallville-what-delay.html#ixzz1CMRJ5DmX
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