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Taco Bell's Recycled Ronald Gag Likely to Make a Mark

Jack in the Box Did It First, but Consumers Won't Care

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Last week, Taco Bell released an ad campaign promoting the national rollout of its breakfast menu. And who did the company and agency Deutsch, Los Angeles, land as star spokesmen for the biggest marketing campaign in Taco Bell's more than half a century in existence?

Ronald McDonald!

How funny! How clever! How did they think of that?!

Perhaps by watching this Jack in the Box ad from 2002, which features that chain's foam-headed mascot getting one Ronald MacDonald to try the burgers.

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So points off for originality.

Not that originality is the hallmark of a chain like Taco Bell, which will serve you anything you want, as long as it involves meat and/or bean paste inside of some sort of tortilla -- or, now, waffles. And, hey, if Burger King can straight up copy "secret sauce" and the Big Mac, why can't Taco Bell borrow an idea for a commercial?

But that is irrelevant. The fact is consumers across America are very unlikely to remember a decade-old ad for a regional chain.

What they will remember is that Taco Bell had the gumption to not only turn a waffle into a taco -- American ingenuity and gluttony at its best -- but to also stick its fingers right in McDonald's eyes. And it does so without managing to be a big jerk about it.

The Waffle Taco spot builds nicely enough, showing the audience a number of men chowing down before the big reveal. Unlike the Jack in the Box spot, Taco Bell doesn't give us some third-rate Ronald MacDonald, but real Ronald McDonald's. And it doesn't cheap out with one Ronald. We get six -- six! -- in the Waffle Taco spot alone, including a Ronald McDonald Jr. and a Ronald McDonald III from Dubuque, Iowa. We meet even more Ronalds in an ad for the Crunch Wrap. An official tally puts the Ronald count at 25, two of them from my home state of Louisiana.

That's a lot of Ronald.

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It's cute. It's memorable. And it will get attention. McDonald's seems to have noticed. Although I'm sure it's purely coincidence that one day after Taco Bell launched its breakfast marketing blitz, the burger chain announced that it would be giving away free coffee this week and next week.

Taco Bell has definitely locked down the hungover and wake-and-bake college crowd -- especially after President Brian Niccol subjected himself to a reddit "Ask Me Anything" session.

We'll just have to wait to see if this campaign coaxes the rest of America to make a run for the breakfast border.

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