Is It Time to Retire Ronal McDonald?

On Thursday, representatives from the non-profit group  Corporate Accountability International will be attending McDonald’s annual meeting with plans to ask CED Jim Skinner to “retire” their spokesclown Ronald McDonald.

CAI says that Ronald encourages kids to eat junk food, contributing to a rise in childhood obesity and related diseases such as diabetes.

The group, which campaigned against the Joe Camel cigarette mascot in the ’90s and complained about Ronald as a role model at McDonald’s annual meeting last year, has stepped up its campaign. The group has taken out full-page ads Wednesday in the Chicago Sun-Times, New York Metro and four other papers to call for his head. The ads, signed by more than 550 health groups and professionals, carry the headline, “Doctors’ Orders: Stop Marketing Junk Food To Kids.”

What follows is an open letter to McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner, that says in part, “We ask that you heed our concern and retire your marketing promotions for food high in salt, fat, sugar, and calories to children, whatever form they take — from Ronald McDonald to toy giveaways.”

McDonald’s defended Ronald against the group’s attack at last year’s annual meeting and is adamant that it has never considered retiring or even downplaying their smiling mascot.

“It’s totally unfounded,” said Marlena Peleo-Lazar, the company’s chief creative officer, who describes Ronald as “a force for good.”

So….what do you think?

  • Is it time to retire Ronald McDonald?
  • Does Ronald, along with the Happy Meals toys and the entire kid-focused McDonald’s marketing campaign contribute to obesity?
  • And if they do contribute to obesity, should poor ole Ronald be forced to “retire”?


  • Is Ronald simply being used as a scapegoat?
  • And aren’t parents ultimately responsible for what their children shove down their gullets?
  • And from what I remember, Ronald started getting into exercise way back in the 80s. Doesn’t that count for something?


Douglas Robb

Doug Robb is a personal trainer, a fitness blogger and author, a competitive athlete, and a student of nutrition and exercise science. He's also the co-founder of the Hive Health Media. Since 2008, Doug has expanded his impact by bringing his real-world experience online via the health & fitness blog – Health Habits.

8 thoughts on “Is It Time to Retire Ronal McDonald?

  • May 30, 2011 at 12:41 am

    Instead of attacking McDonalds for selling a product, put more effort into education. French fries are okay….just not everyday. We’ve become lazy and that’s our fault, not Ronald’s.

  • May 20, 2011 at 8:03 am

    Keep in mind that the non-profit group is targeting Ronald because it gives them lots of media attention. And lots of media attention means more money for them.

    Simply asking McDs to make their menu healthier wouldn’t be as controversial and the media loves controversy

  • May 20, 2011 at 6:17 am

    While I agree that Ronald is a danger, as it promotes lifestyle choices to our kids I personally don’t think any groups should dictate to small business what marketing is appropriate or not.

    I think us, consumers should make a choice and make it known to McDonald but allow them to make correct decision.

  • May 19, 2011 at 3:14 am

    As long as McDonald’s core business is burger/fries/soft drinks/sundaes/shakes and convenience — it doesn’t matter what character they have. Ronald McDonald is part of the McD’s brand, like it or not. IMO, kids really don’t listen to or pay attention to RMcD anyway. I think its a waste of resources, time, and effort for this organization and its supporters to go after this campaign, as an anti-childhood obesity NEEDED change.

  • May 19, 2011 at 2:42 am

    Do you all REALLY think that kids actually pay ANY attention to Ronald McDonald?! What a waste of this organization’s time and resources and all the people involved in writing and posting media blurbs about it. Like it or not, this ‘character’ is part of McDonald’s brand and DID get into trying to get healthier messages across re: exercise. Of course, there was no REAL emphasis or guidance on the food side — remember — McDonald’s is a for-profit business that sells burgers and french fries!! I don’t care who or what ‘character’ they come up with — it will all be a bit incongruent to any anti-obesity movement or message so long as burgers/fries/shakes/sundaes and convenience are the core goods McDonald’s sells. Personally, I’m scared to death of Ronald McDonald (I have a phobia of clowns) and I thought it was ridiculous when it first came out. Yes, it was all part of the ‘our fast foods are ALSO fun’ push to sell to children, not to mention the whole ‘playground’ atmosphere that appealed to busy Moms and Dads who needed to quick feed their kids AND entertain them AND even have an easy cheap place to celebrate their birthdays!!! It’s literally part of the growing pains (no pun intended or, maybe it IS intended!) that we’ve had to go through to get us to the point of buying LESS into this and MORE into making healthier choices MOAT of the time and leaving trips to McDonald’s as ‘treats’ instead of regular jaunts. It is as it is, and the more emphasis on the issue, the less effective time and energies spent. Let it go, people. He’s irrelevant, at this point.

    PS — How about all the Ronald McDonald ‘houses’ out there affiliated with children’s hospitals? I always thought that was pretty neat. What will they be called ”the houses formerly known as Ronald McDonald houses’ or will they also just be identified by a symbol?

    • May 19, 2011 at 2:44 am

      that should be ‘MOST’ of the time

  • May 18, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    McDonald is responsible for obesity among kids (of course parents are more responsible) and they should think of making their burgers more healthy.

  • May 18, 2011 at 9:11 am

    For me, Ronald Mcdonald is solely not to be blame for the excessive increase in number of obese children today. The parents are the main concerned in this issue. They are solely responsible for the diet they impose to their children. They are the ones who should set the rules on healthy eating habits to their children. My wife and I seldom allows our kids to eat fast food meals. We inculcate to them the value of eating fresh vegetables and fruits. We always make it a point to prepare healthy foods at home.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *