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A brief history of Ronald McDonald

Taco Bell's Ronald McDonald Ad Latest To Call Out Competitor

NEW YORK (AP) - Ronald McDonald evidently hasn't lost his magic.

Taco Bell is using real-life people named Ronald McDonald in a marketing campaign to promote its new breakfast menu, a nod to the famous clown known for his bright red hair and a yellow jumpsuit. The chain is hoping to go after McDonald's, the No. 1 player in breakfast.

Though Ronald has faded to the background in McDonald's own advertising, Taco Bell's appropriation of the name is a testament to the spokesclown's lingering cultural power.

Since his debut in 1963, the smiling clown has helped give McDonald's a huge advantage among kids. The clown turns up in countless aspects of pop culture. In the FX TV show "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," the character known as Mac is mocked by his friends after they discover his full name is Ronald McDonald at a high school reunion. Last year, the Wall Street Journal even gave the clown one of its familiar black-and-white portraits to accompany a story.

Here are a few facts about Ronald McDonald:

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- Ronald McDonald was first played by Willard Scott in an ad in the Washington, D.C. market. The character magically pulled hamburgers out of his belt, while wearing a nose made out a McDonald's cup. His hat was a tray holding a Styrofoam burger, a bag of fries and a milkshake.

- Before Ronald McDonald became the national mascot for McDonald's, the company's ad agency considered changing him into a cowboy given the popularity of TV westerns, according to the book "McDonald's: Behind the Arches." Others said he should be made into a spaceman as a nod to the country's budding space program.

- For the first national ads, Scott was dropped because the agency thought he was too heavy to play the part of an "extremely active" Ronald, according to the book.

"It was the first time I was really screwed by the mass media," the book quotes Scott as saying.

- One of the most popular first national ads first featuring Ronald McDonald showed him landing at a restaurant on a flying saucer shaped like a hamburger.

- In Japan, Ronald McDonald is known as Donald McDonald. A local businessman who helped open the first McDonald's in the country decided that it would be easier to pronounce for the Japanese, according to "McDonald's: Behind the Arches."

-McDonald's doesn't like to acknowledge that Ronald McDonald isn't real. The company, based in Oak Brook, Ill., wouldn't answer when asked repeatedly by the AP in 2011 how many actors it uses to portray the clown. "There's only one Ronald," an executive said.

-McDonald's executives bristle at criticism of their mascot. At an annual meeting in 2011, a shareholder expressed disappointment that Ronald wasn't present as the company faced criticism over use of the clown in marketing to children.

In response, then-CEO Jim Skinner said: "Ronald hasn't been here because he's out in the field busy doing work and fighting through the protesters."

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1000|Char. 1000  Char.
DONNA March 28 2014 at 7:40 AM

ANYONE NOTICE THE TYPO IN THE HEADING???? WOW. NOT ONLY CAN THEY NOT PROOFREAD----BUT MCDONALDS LET TACO BELL "AQUIRE" RONALD MCDONALD???

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1 reply
crtadm DONNA March 28 2014 at 9:13 AM

I noticed the "brief" error also.

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stcroixkid March 28 2014 at 10:56 AM

"BREIF"?? Really?? Who proofs your stuff?

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jmoore1248 March 28 2014 at 10:28 AM

If you look at the Ronald back when Scott played him it was a very creepy character.

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2 replies
jbiggs01 jmoore1248 March 28 2014 at 10:51 AM

Not as creepy as the Burger King

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captdmo jmoore1248 March 28 2014 at 11:08 AM

Think HE was creepy, Look up the life of the "professional Clown" that was his Flying Hamburger replacement.

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rhans43832 March 28 2014 at 9:53 AM

RUN AWAY...RUN AWAY !!!!!

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1 reply
rhans43832 rhans43832 March 28 2014 at 9:54 AM

I meant that for LARRY and his link to the original...sorry

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cbbrutontx March 28 2014 at 12:33 PM

Regardless of what people say, the Ronald McDonald character is good strategy
especially with all of the Ronald McDonald houses around the Country for Families
that have Children taking Cancer Treatments having a place to stay

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wlh1923 March 28 2014 at 9:12 AM

When I was younger the clown was just kind of goofy. As I've gotten older the McDonald's clown looks demented and evil

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Mr. Feighner March 28 2014 at 9:05 AM

Why is the word Brief spelled wrong in the headline?

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1 reply
cgssnavickas Mr. Feighner March 28 2014 at 9:29 AM

Because the editors of AOL have never heard of spelchek (I know it's spelled "spellcheck").

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1 reply
shadowdew5 cgssnavickas March 28 2014 at 9:38 AM

IM SURPRISED YOU WERNT BLOCKED FROM MAKING THAT STATEMENT....

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bucks0818 March 28 2014 at 9:04 AM

At least he isn't as scary as the Burger King.

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Vimala Nowlis March 28 2014 at 8:38 AM

Why do people think clowns are funny? Have no one noticed that children are terrified of clowns and always cry when one appears?

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Brenda March 28 2014 at 3:58 PM

I LOVE Ronald and always have! Kudos to the Co.'s defense of one of the best looking, most impressive and desirable clown around!!

PS> My nephew-in-law, Jay Sperry, just happens to be a graphics engineer for the McDonald's advertising agency in Chicago. And the owner/operater of about 10 McDonalds' in Wilmington, NC is Denny "Mc"Anderson as he affectionately known.

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