If you're a little lost, let me explain. If you're in the ad
industry -- even if you're not in the ad industry -- by now you've
all seen Taco Bell's spots featuring guys named Ronald McDonald
talking up Taco Bell's new breakfast menu. You can't escape them.
They're on cable. They're on broadcast. They've been written about
in every major news outlet.
Well, it turns out that days before Taco Bell's effort broke,
Seattle's Best, a company owned by 800-pound coffee gorilla
Starbucks, trotted out an online campaign using guys named Duncan
singing the praises of its latest blend being sold in grocery
aisles. Because Duncan sounds like Dunkin' Donuts. Get it?
How do we know this Seattle's Best campaign broke first? Because
the company wrote this on a behind-the-scenes page
on the Starbucks website: "The ad, which appeared before a
fast-food chain launched a similar commercial, is part of a
campaign that found people preferred the new House Blend from
Seattle's Best Coffee over a competitor's original blend coffee."
(We also know this because … well, let's just say that even
farther behind the scenes some folks are wondering why they're not
getting their write-ups for their hilarious campaign.)
To quote Barack Obama, "let me be clear." This Ad Review isn't
primarily about the actual content and messaging of the Seattle's
Best "Duncan" ads, created by Wexley School for Girls.
But let me also be clear: The ad is inferior to the Taco Bell
ads. Maybe only by a little bit, but for a good reason. There's no
one named Duncan associated with Dunkin' Donuts. In some parts of
the country, believe it or not, Duncan and Dunkin' aren't even
pronounced the same. So the association is a stretch, a sloppy pun
made by that one guy in the office who isn't nearly as funny as he
thinks he is, the one whose open-mic sets you've avoided for since
he started doing stand-up.
Taco Bell's ads aren't gut-busters, but this much can be said:
Ronald McDonald is the name of an actual brand mascot used by
As far as claims of originality go, give it up. We noted
in the earlier review of Taco Bell's campaign that Jack in the
Box used a similar Ronald McDonald (actually, Ronald MacDonald) gag
all the way back in 2002. We also noted that consumers across
America are very unlikely to remember a decade-old ad for a
Just as it's even more unlikely they'll remember a two-day old
web-only campaign for a coffee brand that's not even really
There's a lot to be said about the wasteful spending involved
with creating 30-second spots and then running them on TV. One can
also argue that a PR effort for those 30-second spots has no actual
effect on sales of Waffle Tacos.
But even in America in 2014 -- even in the age of Web
3-point-whatever and social-media and consumer-generated this and
that -- a real marketing professional (as opposed to a social-media
guru) can't honestly expect that, all things being equal, a mildly
funny, unoriginal online only campaign stands a snowball's chance
in hell against a mildly funny, unoriginal TV campaign.
Not with a straight face, at any rate.