Despite criticism that McDonald’s red-haired clown, Ronald McDonald, promotes unhealthy eating, McDonald’s Corp.’s CEO Jim Skinner announced Thursday there’s no way Ronald is going the way of Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man.
You know, I’d never really thought about fast food mascots on the same level as the ones associated with cigarette companies, but that actually makes a lot of sense. These characters are a huge part of how fast-food restaurants appeal to children—and sometimes adults. For example, in the midst of its food safety scandal in the 1990’s, burger chain Jack in the Box brought back its mascot Jack in an effort to stoke the fires of nostalgia in parents who’d been reticent to go with their families. It worked.
Skinner calls Ronald McDonald “a force for good,” noting that he is, after all, the ambassador for not just the McDonald’s brand but also its Ronald McDonald House charities. Says Skinner, “He communicates effectively with children and families around balanced, active lifestyles. He does not hawk food.”
That last part made me giggle. Personally, I tend to agree with Dr. Alfred David Klinger, a retired Chicago physician, who volunteers with advocacy group Corporate Accountability International, the organization calling for the iconic clown to pack it in. He calls Ronald, “a pied piper drawing youngsters all over the world to food that is high in fat, sodium and calories,” though I don’t know if I’d go quite as far saying he’s “dangerous” or that he’s “sending insidious messages to young people.”
I always thought Ronald McDonald was pretty creepy, so I can’t say I’d be sorry to see him go—and I’m sure the company could find a way to keep their charities active. It’s the thought that counts right? Hm…