Taco Bell launched its breakfast menu on March 27, and with it came several advertisements that show people named Ronald McDonald giving it their approval. But one agency is claiming that the Errol Morris-directed ads are unoriginal.
Businessweek reports that Richard Sittag, the founder and creative director of Secret Weapon, says Taco Bell took the idea for the ads from a 2002 Jack in the Box commercial that did the same thing. And he’s not happy about it.
“Our ideas are really the only things that we have,” Sittag said. “So, we get a little touchy when we see something that we’ve done, being done by somebody else.”
The Jack in the Box commercial features Jack going up to the home of someone named Ronald MacDonald and offering the man to try one of his new burgers. It ends by saying the burgers are so good “even Ronald MacDonald likes them.”
Taco Bell ended one of its ads by having 23 Ronald McDonalds, with the last name spelled exactly like the restaurant chain, all gathered into one room and saying they like the new breakfast menu. The voice-over announcer then says that “even Ronald McDonald” will love the chain’s new menu.
Sittag said that if Taco Bell was not in the same industry, this wouldn’t be an issue.
“It’s not like we did an ad and then a vacuum cleaner company did something similar,” he said. “It’s fast food. It’s exactly the same idea.”
The Taco Bell commercials were created by Deutsch LA, who has not commented on the accusations. But copywriter Rob Goldenberg, who worked with Sittag on the ad before working at Deutsch LA for a few years, said he he sent Sittag an email after seeing the ad.
“I was like, ‘Have you seen this? This is insane,'” Goldberg said. “Shame on them for not doing their due diligence.”
McDonald’s hasn’t been quiet on firing back at the Taco Bell attacks. A recent report from The Inquisitr stated that the fast food chain took to Twitter and posted an image of its mascot kneeling down to a terrified Chihuahua, the former mascot for Taco Bell, with the caption: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. pic.twitter.com/e0dFN1ZCqy
— McDonald’s (@McDonalds) March 29, 2014
While Sittag is not happy with Taco Bell copying their idea, he does find it sort of “flattering” that it’s being used again.
“But in other ways, it’s just annoying,” he added.
And even with the accusation, Taco Bell’s breakfast has been doing well since its launch. Nation’s Restaurant News reports that, between March 27 and April 16, the chain’s buzz score rose from 13.2 to 17.6 out of a possible 100. Meanwhile, McDonald’s struggled. Their buzz score was 10.1 and took a dip before recovering to 10.0 on the last day.
Ted Marzilli, the chief executive for YouGov BrandIndex, says things are looking very “positive” for Taco Bell.
“If Taco Bell has more versions of the campaign, it could continue to gain similar attention, and then it’s all about how successful the menu items are,” Marzilli said. “They could be getting a new set of consumers who aren’t normal Taco Bell customers, who might permanently raise their level of perception about Taco Bell.”