The Breakfast Wars Rage On: Taco Bell vs. McDonald's

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
April 8 2014 2:11 PM

With Its New Ad, Taco Bell Stumbles in the Breakfast Wars

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Does this say "hip" to you?

Screengrab from YouTube

Is the Egg McMuffin outdated? Taco Bell is hoping customers will believe so, based on a new ad—"Get With the Times"—that the company released Monday. "I've been eating Egg McMuffins since 1984," the narrator intones to the tune of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," pulling a bedraggled-looking sandwich from his bag. "But when I saw Taco Bell made a waffle taco, I figured I would get with the times," he sings, as a makeover montage shows him shedding his '80s coif and ripping his Loverboy poster from his wall.

The commercial is the latest strike by Taco Bell against McDonald's in the ongoing war for dominance in the more than $30 billion fast-food breakfast industry. Taco Bell rolled out its new breakfast menu nationwide in late March and has relentlessly promoted it against the Golden Arches' options ever since. An ad out several weeks ago, directed by Oscar-winning documentarian Errol Morris, featured real-life Ronald McDonalds declaring their love for Taco Bell's morning items.

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While that first Ronald McDonald jab was clever, the joke is starting to get old. The lyrics in Taco Bell's newest commercial are painfully forced, the singing is tuneless, and the images of Taco Bell's breakfast food just don't look that appetizing. The critique also seems generally misdirected: The Egg McMuffin isn't old-fashioned—it's classic. Plus, for all that Taco Bell is trying to paint McDonald's as boring and old-school, the commercial's final shot—of the middle-aged male character munching a fast-food wrap all alone outside his cluttered garage—seems more like an advertisement for poor life choices.

Alison Griswold is a Slate staff writer covering business and economics.

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