In defense of Ronald

Pressure is building to retire McDonald's mascot Ronald McDonald.

The latest push to retire Ronald is being led by a group called Corporate Accountability International, reports CNN Money. "Through this initiative, the public health community is rallying behind a simple message to McDonald's: stop making the next generation sick -- retire Ronald and the rest of your junk food marketing to kids," said Steven Rothschild, a professor at Rush Medical College and a backer of the resolution.

 

McDonald's is already under pressure from a group of Philadelphia nuns, who filed a proxy resolution in March asking McDonald's to investigate its "policy response" to concerns about the link between fast food and childhood obesity, and is being sued by a group of consumers and health care professionals over the toys that come in the Happy Meals marketed to kids. The group filed a class action suit late last year in California that claims the company's marketing practices violate state's consumer protection laws.

 

McDonalds stands by Ronald and says that it is committed to children's health and nutrition. "We are committed to responsible advertising and take our communications to children very seriously," McDonald's said in a statement. The company has introduced healthy alternatives such as Apple Dippers and low-fat milk in Happy Meals, but critics say the company still serves French fries in the vast majority of its kid-friendly combo meals.

At its annual meeting this week, shareholders were asked to vote on a resolution to stop promotions aimed at kids. In response, CEO James Skinner responded: "McDonald's does not advertise unhealthy food choices to children. It's up to them to choose and their parents to choose."

In a half-dozen ads to launch over the next several months, Ronald is a chipper Ronald-in-motion: dancing, playing soccer, shooting hoops - and nudging kids to visit his website and download photos and videos - Ronaldgrams - to share with friends, reports USA Today.  Ronald is more than a spokesman, says Marlena Peleo-Lazar, global chief creative officer. "Ronald's job is to promote joy, fun and the spontaneity of the brand. He never does a hard sell." 

When a shareholder complained that Ronald has missed the last three annual meetings at the company's Oak Brook headquarters, Mr. Skinner laughed and replied, "Ronald hasn't been here because he's out in the field doing work and fighting protesters," reports Crain's Chicago Business.

And lest the critics forget, Ronald is the face of Ronald McDonald House Charities. With its partners, McDonald's helps families with sick children  in 30 countries and regions worldwide stay near and support a hospitalized child, while undergoing treatment, or getting basic medical and dental care.