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:
— 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.