Does Ronald McDonald Deserve a Break?

Watchdog Group Wants Ronald McDonald to Retire

We all know the statistics and they’re grim. Today, one in three children in the U.S.  is overweight or obese. One in three kids will get diabetes as a result of diet. This is the first generation not expected to live as long as their parents.

The campaign to retire Ronald McDonald is headed by Corporate Accountability International (CAI). They assert,  “No corporation has done more to hook kids on unhealthy food, influencing brand loyalties and eating habits that can last a lifetime. Ninety-six percent of all U.S. school kids recognize Ronald McDonald.”

CAI says, “Ronald McDonald is not only the face of the epidemic, but it’s the engine behind it. No corporation has done more to hook kids on unhealthy food, influencing brand loyalties and eating habits that can last a lifetime.”

Looks like Ronald McDonald is running from CAI.

McDonald’s defends their clown mascot, “…a beloved brand ambassador …who helps deliver messages to families on many important subjects such as safety, literacy, and the importance of physical activity and making balanced food choices.”.

I asked Myriah Hampton from CAI a few questions about the endeavor to retire Ronald McDonald:

1. What will the retirement of Ronald McDonald accomplish?
“We want to reverse an epidemic that is taking the lives of millions each year; an epidemic that begins with the cradle to grave marketing of unhealthy food. For nearly 50 years Ronald has hooked kids on unhealthy food, spurring an epidemic of diet-related disease. It is time McDonald’s stopped targeting our kids directly with fast food marketing. Ronald deserves a break…and so do we!”

2. Nanny corporations (especially through television) are influencing our children. Wouldn’t it be a good idea for parents to set limits and take back responsibility for what their kids watch and eat?
“McDonald’s is a global corporation spending billions to figure out ways into people’s homes, their community’s schools, and their children’s psyche. We’re saying get out of parent’s business – stop creating obstacles to feeding kids healthfully. We are advocating that our right to know what’s in our food be honored. We are asking Big Fast Food to stop undermining the best intentions of parents by manipulatively marketing unhealthy food to our children. We believe it’s time the industry stop passing the blame and the buck to its patrons for its abuses.”

3. What would be your next goal to encourage children to eat healthy foods?
“People ask us why not just advocate for programs that provide alternatives to fast food instead of demonizing McDonalds. We believe the success of alternatives depends very directly on removing a major obstacle – the use of Ronald McDonald to market junk food to kids. The ad budgets behind Ronald and related predatory marketing initiatives crowds out alternatives and makes it difficult for children to embrace alternatives.”

Ban ALL Junk Food Ads Targeting Kids
I believe the benefit from the campaign to retire Ronald McDonald is that it’s shinning a light on the issue of predatory marketing to children. Fast food and junk foods are directly impacting our children’s health. To make matters worse, picky eaters universally love junk foods.

I would like to see regulations with real teeth concerning ALL advertising directed at children. Corporations should not be allowed to peddle junk foods to kids. I’m for eliminating cartoon advertising of junk foods, like Ronald McDonald, Trix the Rabbit, Count Chocula, Tony the Tiger and other characters used to promote unhealthy foods.

In Britain, The Independent Television Commission’s code on advertising says, “No method of advertising may be employed which takes advantage of the natural credulity and sense of loyalty of children.” In other parts of Europe, TV advertising and sponsorship of programs aimed at children below the age of 12 are prohibited. Now that would make a difference!

Just because Ronald McDonald is second only to Santa Claus in recognition, doesn’t necessarily translate to the purchase of a Happy Meal. Children may know who Santa is, and yet, not all families include Santa in their traditions. It does not follow that just because 96 percent of school-aged kids recognize Ronald McDonald that parents will frequent McDonalds.

My heart’s desire is to remove the junk from our kids’ diets and to see them grow up healthy. For me, the solution to junk and fast food is parental control. We can blame big corporations, but ultimately it’s parents who purchase fast food. Toddlers are not pulling up to the drive thru window, ordering and paying for a Happy Meal!

If you want to see Ronald McDonald (and other cartoon junk food mascots) retired…vote with your dollar, not your name on a petition. Ultimately, the only thing counted is money.

Click Here for practical solutions to marketing “Pester Power” to our kids.

3 thoughts on “Does Ronald McDonald Deserve a Break?

  1. Kay says:

    My only concern with this, is that it might hurt some really good projects with the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Where I agree with the idea to change advertizing geared toward kids, and parents need to be more responsible with what they feed their kids… picking on this one icon might be the wrong way to go.

  2. Damona says:

    I’m with you Nonna…for the most part. And I love the Retire Ronald campaign. Yes, vote with your dollar but also be very clear with this corporation why you are spending it elsewhere. That’s where the petition comes in. They should be under no illusion that the reason parents are going elsewhere is for any other reason than because we’re tired of it bombarding our kids with advertising.

    As for parental control, I like what Myriah from Corporate Accountability International had to say on this. In effect — this issue is 100% about parental control and parental responsibility…and that doesn’t just mean feeding your kids right, making sure they get exercise, and hoping the other 99.9% has the means, wherewithal, and fortitude to do the same. It means the type of collective action to legislate change that you advocate, Nonna. It also means parents coming together to call corporations to account for spending billions of dollars on predatory marketing that works at cross-purposes to our better efforts.

    Really glad to read this post, to stumble upon, and to see such efforts underway.

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