Article featured image
photo: jesman on Flickr

A movement organized by Corporate Accountability International [CAI] has gathered over 550 health professionals and organizations to demand the retirement of McDonald’s longtime mascot, Ronald McDonald. The organizations have signed an open letter addressed to McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner calling for the end of junk food marketing to kids. The health organizations condemn the role of marketing in the childhood obesity epidemic and request that McDonald’s stop using Ronald McDonald and Happy Meal toys to promote unhealthy foods to children.

At the annual McDonald’s shareholder’s meeting this week, CAI and the Sisters of St. Francis in Philadelphia will offer a proposal asking McDonald’s to consider the financial burden of resisting newly enacted nutritional policy measures.

McDonald’s has reason to fear the CAI, which was the leading force behind the campaign to permanently retire tobacco mascot Joe Camel. The retirement of Ronald McDonald would bring even more attention to the ills of food marketing, which is already under government scrutiny. It also comes at a time when McDonald’s is losing ground as a leader in the fast food business.

The Wall Street Journal reports on Ronald McDonald’s harmful role in marketing food to children.

The letter, which ran in the form of full-page ads in six metropolitan newspapers around the country this week, acknowledges that “the contributors to today’s (health) epidemic are manifold and a broad societal response is required. But marketing can no longer be ignored as a significant part of this massive problem.”

Last month, federal regulators proposed standards by which they’re asking food makers to voluntarily adhere when marketing food to children and teens.

McDonald’s defends its mascot in an article in Connecticut’s Danbury News Times.

McDonald’s defended Ronald against the group’s attack at last year’s annual meeting and is adamant that it has never considered retiring or even downplaying their smiling mascot.

“It’s totally unfounded,” said Marlena Peleo-Lazar, the company’s chief creative officer, who describes Ronald as “a force for good.”

Maureen Morrison looks into CAI’s focus on Ronald McDonald in an article in Advertising Age.

Patti Lynn, campaigns director at CAI, said that if the resolution gets a 3% to 5% vote in favor, “we would consider that a success. It’s something that we expect to play out over time.” She said that McDonald’s is the chosen target because it is the leader in the market, and sets the standard for how other fast feeders market to kids.

Ad Age in November reported that the Happy Meal is estimated at about 10% of the company’s U.S. business. McDonald’s devoted about $115.5 million on U.S. measured media in 2010 to the Happy Meal, according to Kantar, out of a total of $887.8 million in spending. In 2009, it spent $69.5 million on the Happy Meal out of $873.3 million.


Do you think Ronald McDonald is guilty of marketing junk food to kids? Should he stay or should he go? Tell us in the comments.