Ronald McDonald Needs a Makeover

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A consumer advocacy group, Corporate Accountability International, wants Ronald McDonald to retire.  According to a CNN report, Corporate Accountability International plans to host a retirement party for Ronald McDonald as it releases a report Wednesday that calls for McDonald’s to stop using the clown.  “For nearly 50 years, Ronald McDonald has hooked kids on unhealthy foods spurring a deadly epidemic of diet-related diseases,” said Deborah Lapidus, the senior organizer at Corporate Accountability International. “Ultimately the report makes the case that it’s time that McDonald’s stop directing fast food to kids.  Really, Ronald deserves a break and so do we.”

Let me say straight-out: I do not like McDonald’s.  I don’t eat McDonald’s food and neither do my children.  I don’t like Ronald either.  As a child, I never found him appealing, and as a parent I find him down right creepy.

He also bears a disturbing resemblance to a rubber chicken.  But nonetheless, I now rise to his defense.

Corporate Accountability International’s finger-pointing at a clown doesn’t help the obesity crisis any more than New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed soda tax helps the obesity epidemic.  We could argue that there needs to be government regulation on all advertising directed towards children, especially when it comes to food products (cereals, fast food, candy, etc).  I would support this, and I think that it would be a worthy endeavor.  But targeting Ronald is not the path to better health for all.  McDonald’s isn’t going anywhere – I know it, you know it, they know it.  Rather than spending time and money trying to eliminate poor Ronald, why not use him to raise awareness about a healthy diet?   If he’s as influential as Corporate Accountability International claims, let’s tweak him, reform him, and help him be a better clown.  How about Ronald McDonald chomping on a carrot, or a commercial where Ronald goes to the farmer’s market?  Or Ronald eats an apple instead of an apple pie.

What Ronald McDonald needs is a makeover – less rubber chicken, more fresh leafy green salad.

And speaking of influential, the Corporate Accountability’s website says, “The average child sees about 20,000 fast food commercials every year. With marketing that overwhelming, it’s hard for even the most health-conscious parent to maintain influence over their child’s food preferences.”

Who are these health-conscious parents that allow their children to spend enough hours in front of the TV to see 20,000 fast food commercials?    You can’t complain about the commercials your child sees if you let him watch TV for hours each day, and you can’t complain about McDonald’s if you take him there to eat.  A six-year-old child does not end up in McDonald’s with a tray full of food by himself.  Someone takes him there, and someone pays for that food.

There are enormous problems with the American diet.  We are surrounded by terrible food and skillful marketing.  And our diet does lead to illnesses like type 2 diabetes.  As responsible adults and parents, however, we need to teach our children not to eat this food.  My youngest son, Adam, is almost a year old.  His favorite activity is putting things into his mouth.  He crawls around our apartment – which houses his two older brothers, two cats, and a giant dog – and examines everything, from toys, to cat hair, to shoelaces.  I follow behind Adam on his excursions, let him touch and explore, and as his little hand grasps something and brings it towards his face, I say, “not in your mouth.”  I use a stern voice, and he listens.  Those are the four words a parent needs.  We can’t blame Ronald McDonald for what goes into our children’s mouths.  We can only blame ourselves.

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Sharon Selvidge
Sharon Selvidge
10 years ago

Wow, I am thankful I am not the only person in the world who thinks MCD and of course other fast food places are poison for the kids. I  just responded to a  post in our local newspaper regarding the building of another MCD being built and added to the many other fast food restaurants in our city. I was almost CRUCIFIED for suggesting this may not be a good idea for the kids to have another place to eat unhealthy. All of the people responding to the post told me its “Your fault your kids are FAT and unhealthy… Read more »

Seth
Seth
10 years ago

April fools?

Paul
Paul
10 years ago

Yes we are all agreed Ronnie is a creep. Whether newscasters or clowns, I don’t like men with too much make-up.
There’s an interesting post over at the Health Journal Club that makes the case that people should just not eat anything that wasn’t a food 100 years ago. Gets rid of the aspartame, bleached GM flour, high fructose corn syrup garbage they try to pass off as food these days. If interested you can read on it here,
http://healthjournalclub.blogspot.com/2010/01/100-year-diet.html
 

Jessica Apple
10 years ago

Sarah, I too would be horrified to see Ronald in a school.  He has no place there. And to all of you who commented, I wish that retiring Ronald would solve the problems of Americans diet.  Unfortunately, I think that if the clown were to go down, something else would take his place.   And I think focusing on him is a narrow approach.  We should be looking at the big picture.  I’d like to see America go through a giant nutritional overhaul where a long-term sustainable program that educates children and adults about nutrition is implemented.  I like what… Read more »

Mary
Mary
10 years ago

The big problem is McDonald’s uses Ronald to get around “gatekeepers,” the term executives use to describe parents intent on making healthy choices for their kids.  He’s everywhere parents can’t constantly monitor and he’s effective at making children desire what they’re told they can’t have.

Jenny
Jenny
10 years ago

While I support some of your comments (like government regulations on ads to kids), I disagree with your idea for a makeover.  Even with Ronald hawking veggies and farmers’ markets, McDonald’s won’t stop selling its most profitable unhealthy foods.  McDonald’s is determined to get around parents intent on making healthy choices for their kids. He’s everywhere – and his message is effective at making kids desire what they’re told they can’t have.

Paula M
Paula M
10 years ago

The problem is that McDonald’s uses Ronald to get around “gatekeepers,” the term executives use to describe parents intent on making healthy choices for their kids. He is everywhere parents can’t constantly monitor, and he’s effective at making children desire what they’re told they can’t have.

Brenda Markham
Brenda Markham
10 years ago

Shame on you Jessica. Kudos to Corporate Accountability International for this campaign. I agree it is time to retire the clown and other marketing icons that are hooking our children on products from cradle to grave. The big problem is McDonald’s uses Ronald to get around “gatekeepers,” the terms executives use to describe parents intent on making healthy choices for their kids. He’s a deep-fried Joe Camel for the 21st Century. He’s everywhere parents can’t constantly monitor and he’s effective at making children desire what they’re told they can’t have. Marketing icons have a profound impact on children, and Ronald… Read more »

Sarah
Sarah
10 years ago

I have to agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics on marketing to kids.  I read in a recent story that “advertising directed towards children is inherently deceptive and exploits children under eight years of age.” It is my responsibility as a parent to guide and instruct my children but McDonald’s is spending billions  to undermine my authority and reach my kids.  I was furious when I found out Ronald came to my kindergartners class to teach jazzercise and gave my daughter Happy Meal toys and coupons for chicken mcnuggets. Frances Moore Lappe has a great blog post up today… Read more »

Catherine
10 years ago

Good points. Also, another reason Ronald’s retirement isn’t a good idea: McDonald’s might replace him with a mascot that’s cute. I bet that his creepiness actually keeps some kids away.

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