Taco Bell breakfast debuts with Ronald McDonald's endorsement

Taco Bell breakfast menu launched nationwide Thursday, along with a new Taco Bell breakfast ad campaign featuring a very unlikely spokesman: Ronald McDonald, or at least 25 men named Ronald McDonald. 

Taco Bell via Taylor Strategy/AP
This frame grab from video provided by Taco Bell shows Ronald McDonald of Oak Ridge, N.C., in a Taco Bell commercial. The fast-food chain will begin airing ads Thursday that feature everyday men who happen to have the same name as the McDonald's mascot. The marketing campaign is intended to promote Taco Bell's new breakfast menu, which features novelties like the Waffle Taco.

After years of testing and hype, the big day is finally here: Taco Bell’s breakfast menu started selling nationwide at 7 a.m. Thursday morning. The menu includes, among other items, a breakfast version of Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap, miniature cinnamon roll bites, and the headlining Waffle Taco. And a surprising name is throwing his support behind the new menu: Ronald McDonald.

Taco Bell and parent company Yum! Brands have made no secret of the fact that the breakfast launch is a direct attempt to eat into McDonald’s domination of the fast food morning market. But a new ad campaign released Thursday stops just short of declaring it an all-out breakfast war.

"To show you just how much people are loving Taco Bell's all new breakfast, we asked some very special people," says the narrator, before introducing one man after another from various cities across the country, all named “Ronald McDonald.”

As the ads proceed, the Ronalds eat and praise various items from the new breakfast menu. “Eggs, sausage, syrup. What more could you ask for?” says Ronald McDonald Jr. from Dubuque, Ind. He’s sitting next to his teenage son, Ronald McDonald III.

At the end of one spot, the Ronald McDonalds, now gathered together in one room, say, “My name is Ronald McDonald, and I love Taco Bell’s new breakfast.” Fine print appears at the bottom of the screen reading, “These Ronald McDonalds are not affiliated with McDonald’s Corporation and were individually selected as paid endorsers of Taco Bell Breakfast, but man, they sure did love it.”

The campaign was created by corporate marketing group Interpublic's Deutsch Los Angeles ad agency, and Taco Bell president Brian Niccol told Ad Age that it would be among the chain’s biggest marketing efforts ever, even surpassing the campaign for the successful Doritos Locos taco a few years ago. He wouldn’t say how much it would cost, however.

That Taco Bell is making such a targeted run at McDonald’s is hardly surprising; when it comes to breakfast, no other chain comes close to matching its success. Breakfast items account for 20 percent of the chain’s overall sales, and McDonald’s is responsible for about 30 percent of the fast food breakfast market in the US. Earlier this year, in an interview with AP, Niccol expressed confidence that Taco Bell could turn the breakfast market into a “two horse race” and occupy a solid second-place slot behind the Golden Arches.

Besides the Waffle Taco, Taco Bell’s breakfast menu includes an A.M. Crunchwrap (eggs, hash browns, cheese, and bacon or sausage wrapped in a flour tortilla); Cinnabon Delights (Bite-sized cinnamon buns); a few different breakfast burritos, including one with steak and eggs; a Sausage Flatbread Melt; hash browns; coffee; and orange juice. Those items will be available each day until 11 a.m.

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