Taco Bell's Tone Deaf Mocking of the Arts

Chris Peterson

  • OnStage Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Once again, Corporate America has found its way into insulting the arts and those involved with them. In the past year we've seen ads mocking visual and performing artists from companies such as Old Navy, Wells Fargo and AT&T. 

Now we can add Taco Bell to this illustrious list. 

In the past couple of days, the company released the following ad. 

In the ad, the narrator mocks the graduating student for not only becoming hooked on Taco Bell's "Naked Chicken Chips" but also for his B.F.A. Degree by stating "What a waste".

While, as a theatre major myself, this ad angers me, it doesn't surprise me. Because for some reason, Corporate America somehow likes to suggest the arts are either useless or a waste of time, like Old Navy's shirt idea

But while Taco Bell would like to perpetuate the stereotype that a career in the arts is a "waste", it's actually more false than funny. 

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the value of arts and cultural production in America in 2014 was $729.6 billion, amounting to 4.2% of gross domestic product. The arts contribute more to the national economy than do the construction, mining, utilities, insurance, accommodation and FOOD SERVICE industries.

The United States had a $26.4 billion trade surplus in arts and cultural commodities in 2014. America exported $60.2 billion and imported $33.8 billion worth of arts and culture. Independent artists, performing arts companies and performing arts presenters added a combined total of $46 billion to the U.S. economy. There were 4.8 million arts and cultural sector jobs in America—accounting for 3.3% of all U.S. jobs—which collectively paid workers a total of $355 billion.

Yet, those who seek higher education in the arts are subjected to ad like this and the continued belief that they will become "starving artists. Never mind the fact that as of 2015, 54% of all artists were employed by the private, for-profit sector. Also never mind the fact that Taco Bell employs some of these creative people within their ranks as well. 

So why do companies constantly like to hurl advertising grenades at the arts? I honestly don't know at this point. But I doubt it's going to stop either. 

Some of you may think that this is just a senseless ad. However, the purpose of advertising is to influence and with messages like this, I'm growing worrisome of what the future holds for arts education.

I've said it many times, creative types are needed now more than ever. According to an employer survey by The Conference Board, 97% of the companies asked,  say creativity is increasingly important to them. 85% of employers looking to hire creative people say they are unable to find the applicants they seek. Which means creative talent is needed for positions like these. Taco Bell would like you to believe that it's not true and your pursuit of an arts degree is a waste. 

I'm disappointed in Taco Bell, but again, not surprised. After all they one approved this ad too.