Should Ronald McDonald Retire?

Discussion
Apr 08, 2010
Tom Ryan

By Tom Ryan

A coalition of health professionals and parents last week called for the resignation
of Ronald McDonald. They claim the 50-year old mascot encourages kids to eat
unhealthy foods and contributes to childhood obesity problems.

Corporate Accountability International, which has waged campaigns against
bottled water and tobacco companies and was behind the effort to retire Joe
Camel from Camel cigarettes, released a new poll from Lake Research Partners
that showed that while two-thirds of Americans had a favorable impression of
Ronald McDonald, 47 percent said they support retiring Ronald as a corporate
mascot. Over half say they "favor stopping corporations from using cartoons and other children’s
characters to sell harmful products to children."

At "retirement parties" held at various McDonald’s and college campuses
last Wednesday across the country, volunteers encouraged people to sign retirement
cards for Ronald.

"No icon has ever been more effective in hooking kids on a harmful product," said
Deborah Lapidus, the senior organizer at Corporate Accountability International,
in a statement. "Kids have become more obese and less healthy on his watch.
He’s a deep-fried Joe Camel for the 21st Century. He deserves a break,
and so do our kids."

The front page of the movement’s website, retireronald.org, shows a cartoon
of a retirement party for the clown with attendees including Joe Camel, Spuds
MacKenzie of Bud Light fame and the Marlboro Man.

McDonald’s released a statement calling Ronald McDonald "a beloved brand
ambassador for McDonald’s" and touted his charity efforts.

"Ronald also helps deliver messages to families on many important subjects
such as safety, literacy, and the importance of physical activity and making
balanced food choices. That’s what Ronald McDonald is all about, which our customers
know and appreciate," McDonald’s said in the statement.

Discussion Questions: Should
McDonald’s retire Ronald McDonald?
If yes, how should McDonald’s handle it? Do you expect criticism over such
cartoon and character brand mascots to continue to grow over child obesity
concerns?

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29 Comments on "Should Ronald McDonald Retire?"


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Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
11 years 28 days ago

McDonald’s should only retire Ronald if the character is no longer effective as an advertising tool or corporate icon. And if they do retire him, I think Hamburgler, working in cahoots with Mayor McCheese, should have him offed–let’s go for an edgy ending πŸ™‚

Susan Rider
Guest
Susan Rider
11 years 28 days ago

If Ronald is that powerful, maybe he should encourage kids to go healthy! Ronald does encourage exercise in the playground! πŸ™‚

David Livingston
Guest
11 years 28 days ago

There will always be whiners and crybabies who find fault in the success of a business. It’s McDonald’s responsibility to stockholders to sell as much junk food to kids as legally possible. Cartoons, clowns, coupons, happy meals, birthday parties, whatever. You get them hooked young and you got them hooked for life. If the method isn’t broke, then don’t fix it. Ronald is just one of many ways to lure kids in. Next thing you know the food extremists will require people to be at least 18 years old before they can buy food at McDonald’s.

Doug Fleener
Guest
11 years 28 days ago

Ronald is probably a lot thinner than the people who are complaining about him. I’d retire the Burger King myself. That bizarre grin of his just scares the heck out of me.

P May
Guest
P May
11 years 28 days ago

I have been eating at McDonald’s restaurants for over 30 years and I am nor have ever been obese. My parents were parental enough to teach me that I shouldn’t eat Big Macs for every meal. They also were parental enough to have most meals at home so that McDonald’s (or any restaurant) was not my only source of nutrition.

Stacey Silliman
Guest
Stacey Silliman
11 years 28 days ago

Are you kidding me? Ronald McDonald and his pals Grimace and Hamburgler and the others have been around for a long time. Generation X grew up with them and they never factored into childhood obesity because our parents only took us to McDonald’s as a treat. Additionally, we played outdoors and went swimming, running, biking, hiking as opposed to sitting and watching television. Computers weren’t part of the equation either–we didn’t have them until much later.

These kids need to eat healthier, yes, but the parents should blame themselves for not teaching their children proper nutrition and factoring in exercise. It’s not Ronald’s fault! People will think of any excuse to point the finger so that they do not have to hold themselves accountable–even if it’s at a cartoon character!

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
11 years 28 days ago

I think this is absolutely ridiculous. While we’re at it, let’s crusade against the Burger King, Cap ‘N Crunch, The Wendy’s girl, Toucan Sam, Sugar Bear and Cookie Monster.

The real problem in my opinion is a fundamental lack of personal responsibility for what we (and our children) are eating.

The tendency to look for someone to blame–even if it’s a clown–is what stands in the way of us addressing the real issues.

Russ Reeder
Guest
Russ Reeder
11 years 28 days ago

Give me a break! People actually get paid to come up with this stuff. Maybe they should consider spending more time trying to get through to the parents. After all, it is the parents who make the decision to go to these places. If you don’t like the food offerings, go somewhere else.

Sounds like Deborah should go retire.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
11 years 28 days ago

It is not Ronald McDonald that needs to be retired, it is parents and others who will not take responsibility for their own actions. We all have the ability to make choices and those choice all have consequences both good and bad. Groups need to quit looking for others to blame and spend time educating the public to make the proper kind of choices based on the potential outcome.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 28 days ago

Maybe put him in a Fila track suit instead and have him always throwing a ball or kicking a ball or doing something with a ball when he’s on camera. Or even better, he could make Grimace do push ups to show the importance of exercise in working off all those McNuggets.

Ronald is not the problem here. Parents who rely on McDonald’s cheap (which actually really isn’t cheap) and convenient food are the problem. Why can’t people own up to their own decisions instead of blaming a poor defenseless clown?

W. Frank Dell II
Guest
11 years 28 days ago

Ronald McDonald should not retire, but get an update, like Betty Crocker. Few companies use mascots today. It was common in the 50s and 60s. There is nothing wrong with s mascot that can go out and meet customers. But the question is, is it effective with the new world of social media?

Mark Burr
Guest
11 years 28 days ago

Okay, so I avoid Big Mac’s more than I used to, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t recognize the incredible value that Ronald McDonald Charities continue to provide to communities everywhere. The nearest number I could find was 2008 and it appeared to be about $300 million, not including expenses of managing existing assets of supporting Ronald McDonald houses everywhere.

Part of my penance if I ever do succumb to the craving is dropping the change into the bin under the drive-thu window. Maybe these groups could be more useful to their communities if they directed their energies on something positive rather than attacking one of the more positive corporate icons that exists. Ignorance abounds, I suppose.

Mary Marshall
Guest
Mary Marshall
11 years 28 days ago

If Ronald retires, does that mean his influence on kids will stop? I don’t think so because McDonald’s has become a staple for families’ busy lives. It’s convenient for our society to just grab a quick meal without any thought to the end result. Ronald is not responsible for obesity, the people who consume are, knowing it is not healthy yet continuing to eat it because there isn’t time to cook. It’s easier to find a scapegoat than to take personal responsibility for eating healthy.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
11 years 28 days ago

People think of the wonderful, charitable, Ronald McDonald houses and of Ronald entertaining sick kids rather than “obesity” when we see the character with big shoes. I fault the media for even publicizing this idiotic misplaced “activism.” From the first day I heard about it I wondered if McDonald’s competitors might be helping fund this effort surreptitiously behind the scenes. Then I realized it’s probably just more busybody types we don’t know and who don’t know us, wanting to tell us what to eat and how to live our lives. And frankly it’s getting very annoying. I trust that Ronald will tell them (in a very nice way) to go pound sand.

Erich Dietz
Guest
Erich Dietz
11 years 28 days ago

This is a very frustrating topic for me. While I do believe Ronald helps attract kids to the brand, it is ultimately a child’s parent(s) that drive them to, and purchase, what Ronald is pitching. Mascot-focused debates help perpetuate parents absolving themselves of their responsibility to teach their children healthy eating habits. In my opinion, the mascot is less than 1% of the problem. Parents lack of involvement, guidance, and providing the right example is the remaining 99%+. Based on this, nothing will really change if Ronald retires, the true crux of the issue remains.

Disclaimer: I am not implying anyone who has posted does not feel the same way. My struggle is that the portion of the debate that most often gets the spotlight omits the true issue.

James Tenser
Guest
11 years 28 days ago

Doesn’t this campaign taste a little funny to you?

Sure, too many kids are fat in this country and fast food is partly to blame. And yes, clowns are innately creepy. But so are that plastic-grinned King and the bubble-headed Jack, and that formerly fat Subway guy.

But what is it about McDonald’s message that makes it more odious than the others? And if the character is so truly influential, couldn’t it be channeled to persuade kids to adopt healthful lifestyles?

All clowning aside, I think R. McDonald is being persecuted for his success.

Steven Kuhlman
Guest
Steven Kuhlman
11 years 28 days ago

Let’s retire Ronald, the evil purveyor of unhealthy food. While we’re at it, let’s retire the Lucky Charms Leprechaun, Tony the Tiger, and the Trix Rabbit because of the high sugar content in cereals, Charlie the Tuna because of the high mercury content in tuna, and Chuck E. Cheese because of the high fat content in pizzas. All these characters forced us, to eat the foods they were advertising. …NOT!!!

Bob Phibbs
Guest
11 years 28 days ago

If they do because he’s “too effective” maybe they could license him to Kmart.

Robert Straub
Guest
Robert Straub
11 years 28 days ago

While retiring Ronald McDonald is certainly a little over the top, let’s not forget that in the big picture, quick service restaurants are the bottom feeders of our society and no amount of rationalization will change that.

You don’t need to be a food “extremist” to have a disdain for Ronald McDonald and his ilk. I feel bad for people who think a Big Mac is a treat–all one has to do is watch an episode of Diner’s Drive-Ins and Dives to find out what good “bad” food really is.

Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
11 years 28 days ago

Asking health experts whether Ronald McDonald should retire is a bit like asking Republicans whether President Obama should resign.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
11 years 28 days ago
I think a lot of these comments miss three key points: 1. There is an obesity epidemic in the U.S. 2. Parental responsibility obviously hasn’t worked. 3. Like it or not, corporations and/or the government often get blamed when there is a problem in our society. So, while we can complain about how unfair it is for groups to push for the retirement of McDonald’s mascot, that isn’t going to stop them from doing it. And, let’s remember what has happened to tobacco, alcohol, candy, and cereal companies in terms of regulations. So, as long as there is a huge obesity problem, fast food operators are going to be a target, and advocacy groups are going to go after the number one brand with the most well-known mascot. McDonald’s is going to either have to retool Ronald in a significant way, or get rid of him. Maybe it isn’t right, but it’s reality. Responsible parents wouldn’t let their kids eat at McDonald’s except on occasion, but irresponsible ones would, and there are enough of those… Read more Β»
Craig Sundstrom
Guest
11 years 28 days ago

Only if they feel he’s ineffective, not because Busybodies Int’l tells them to (and I didn’t see any “health professionals” actually cited in the article, only the usual [causist] suspects).

Lee Peterson
Guest
11 years 28 days ago

That is such a Kroc! (as in Ray — sorry, couldn’t help it!)

Agree with comments above in that if it is true that Ronald has that much power, why not insist that he take a healthier stand vs. just getting rid of him. Turn him over to the ‘light’ side, so to speak. He may become a powerful source for the health advocates.

Greg Needham
Guest
Greg Needham
11 years 28 days ago

If this group of parents and health professionals ever found themselves in a situation where there child had to use the great facilities that RMH Charities provide, they would NEVER call for his retirement. Ronald McDonald House Charities provide families a place to stay, that a child with medical challenges can try to escape. It is the House that love built. Parents need to take responsibility for their children and not look for a mascot as the scapegoat.

Sid Raisch
Guest
Sid Raisch
11 years 28 days ago

This assault on Ronald is personally offensive to me. The vast majority of Americans are capable of making basic choices about their health and the presence of Ronald or not will not make a substantial difference. They are using him as an iconic landmark to entrench and further their cause, and they must be stopped.

I hope that McDonald’s can effectively stop this campaign in its tracks. The best strategy is a better strategy for them to use Ronald more effectively in helping kids choose health friendly meals at McDonald’s or anywhere. McDonald’s, give us a way to come to Ronald’s defense–before it is too late. Let this battle be won in the courtroom of your customer’s desires and interests and not by a bunch of people who choose to view themselves as supreme and all of us as village idiots.

Please!

Steve Montgomery
Guest
11 years 27 days ago

Like most respondents, my answer is no–there is no reason to retire Ronald. In fact, as an employee he seems to be doing an exemplary job. He is well known in the marketplace, has never complained about upward mobility with the corporation and is extremely effective in being a spokesperson.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
11 years 27 days ago

Who’s next in CAI’s crosshairs, Little Debbie? The Keebler Elves? The M&Ms characters (hopefully not the sexy green one)? I’ve always found Ronald McDonald to be a little creepy, which is underscored by how creepy the first Ron McD, Willard Scott, still is today. But, McD could introduce some new characters such as Saladette, their very own sexy green one! Or how about going with the flow and introducing a fitness-oriented character named Mickey D? The Ronald McDonald character franchise just needs to be refreshed, that’s all. Let’s keep him around for our chubby little grandkids.