Taco Bell takes a page from Apple and evokes '1984' in new viral ad

Taco Bell's Routine Republic is a new three-minute short film the fast food purveyor has posted to YouTube. The ad depicts a solemn, grey totalitarian state where people line up and shuffle forward to be handed nondescript breakfast sandwiches, assaulted by Soviet-style imagery, video and audio lauding the benefits of having the same breakfast every day.

A Big Brother character in clown makeup (looking somewhere between Ronald McDonald and New Wave singer Klaus Nomi) leers from posters plastered on concrete walls, all evoking the socialist realism of the Soviet era. Even the guards in this depressing regime, surrounded by a filthy ball pit a la "McDonaldland" play areas, wear clown makeup to emulate their leader (though they look, perhaps intentionally, a little more Jack In the Box than Ronald McDonald).

Here the hexagonally-shaped Taco Bell breakfast "Crunchwrap" is the agent of change: An object of non-conformity coveted by two young people who literally run for the hills after escaping through a hole in the wall.

Taco Bell noted in a press release that the new short was produced by ad agency Deutsch LA. The company has also set up a two new Web sites to promote the ad campaign: RoutineRepublic.com and BreakfastDefectors.com.

OK, reality check: Having a Crunchwrap for breakfast instead of an Egg McMuffin seems to me, anyway, to be trading one regrettable decision for another. Boiling down the complicated themes about individuality, totalitarianism and the dangers of the state expressed in 1984 to an ad for fast food is trivializing and reductionist. But it's no worse than using it to sell a new computer like Ridley Scott, Chiat\Day and Apple did in their Superbowl ad 31 years ago.

I don't think Taco Bell aims to (or will) have the same impact as Apple's 1984-inspired ad. I just like to enjoy it because it's so well done. I'm always happy when I hear The Ramones, too.

Here's Apple's 1984 ad, if you want to compare:

Peter Cohen