Help retire Ronald McDonald (so he won’t keep hooking kids on factory foods)

Corporate Accountability International has launched a campaign urging McDonald’s to “retire” its famous mascot, the clown Ronald McDonald.
“It’s time to send Ronald McDonald to join Joe Camel in the retirement home of marketing icons, where he hopefully will never be heard from again,” writes Michele Simon, author of Appetite for Profit, in the forward to the group’s “Retire Ronald” report.
Ronald McDonald was introduced as a marketing mascot in 1963, in one of the first attempts in history to market directly to children. McDonald’s has pursued this strategy aggressively ever since, and today spends roughly 40 percent of its massive publicity budget on ads aimed at kids — not even counting money spent to persuade parents that McDonald’s food is not unhealthy for children.
McDonald’s also uses Ronald McDonald in many of its educational and charitable campaigns, including nutrition education programs in schools. According to former CEO Fred Turner, the company adopted this strategy “for very selfish reasons. It was probably 99 percent commercial. It was an inexpensive and imaginative way of getting your name before the public and building a reputation to offset the image of selling 15-cent hamburgers.”
But given that unhealthy food like that sold by McDonald’s has been strongly linked to rising rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and slew of other health problems, even many of those who look fondly on McDonald’s and its clown mascot see Ronald McDonald as the food equivalent of the tobacco industry’s Joe Camel. According to a 2010 poll by Corporate Accountability International, 47 percent of U.S. residents support a call to retire Ronald McDonald. This number holds steady even among those with favorable opinions about the clown and the corporation.
The group is calling on McDonald’s to end all use of Ronald McDonald and other cartoons, celebrities or characters that appeal to children; remove all toys and other incentives from happy meals; and remove all advertising from areas frequented by children.

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