Fun facts about Ronald Mcdonald
Ronald McDonald evidently hasn’t lost his magic.
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. Here are a few facts about Ronald McDonald:
• 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. 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 “McDonald’s: Behind the Arches.”
“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.”
NEW YORK — Taco Bell is name-dropping an unlikely clown to promote its new breakfast menu — Ronald McDonald.
The fast-food chain will begin airing ads today that feature everyday men who happen to have the same name as the McDonald's mascot known for his bright red hair and yellow jumpsuit. The marketing campaign is intended to promote Taco Bell's new breakfast menu, which features such novelties as a waffle taco.
The chain, owned by Yum Brands Inc. of Louisville, Ky., is looking to boost sales by opening most of its roughly 6,000 U.S. stores a few hours earlier at 7 a.m. starting this week.
But Taco Bell has a long way to go to catch up with McDonald's, the No. 1 player in breakfast with 31 percent of the category, according to market researcher Technomic. Egg McMuffins and other items have been consistent sellers for McDonald's over the years, with breakfast accounting for about 20 percent of the company's U.S. sales.
By comparison, a Yum executive has said breakfast accounted for just 4 percent of sales when it was being tested at Taco Bell stores in select markets. That was before national marketing began, however, and Taco Bell President Brian Niccol said in a phone interview that the goal was to get the figure to a level "much greater than that."
Niccol concedes that the real-life Ronald McDonalds were paid for their appearances in the ads, but insists their enthusiastic reactions to the food were real.
"All of them resoundingly loved the food," he said.
Taco Bell's ad agency, Deutsch LA, found around 400 men and women with the name Ronald McDonald, Ronnie McDonald or some variation, Niccol said. A couple of dozen were selected to represent different regions around the country including Bossier City, La.; Chicago; Dubuque, Iowa; Kane, Pa.; and Worcester, Ma.
The men show their approval of the food with comments including, "It's not messy" and "Mmm, wow" and "Mmm, real good" and "It has everything I like."
In case it wasn't clear, tiny print at the end of the ad notes that, "These Ronald McDonalds are not affiliated with McDonald's Corporation and were individually selected as paid endorsers of Taco Bell Breakfast."
"We like to do things with a wink and smile," Niccol said. "We have a sense of humor."
As for Ronald McDonald the fast-food clown, the character was first played by Willard Scott in 1963. He was initially depicted as a character that magically pulled hamburgers out of his belt. But the mascot eventually became a target of critics who say McDonald's uses him to market to kids.
A representative for McDonald's Corp. did not respond to a request for comment.