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Help Stop Corporate Advertising to our Children

April 11, 2010

I never found Ronald McDonald a very compelling corporate mascot, but maybe that is because I just don’t get clowns.  They don’t scare me or anything, but they do seem weird.  So when I started hearing about this desire to retire Ronald McDonald, I didn’t really care. As well as Ronald, I was never that impressed with Grimmace, the Hamburgler, Mayor McCheese, nor the bird thing or the talking McNuggets they added most recently.  It seemed to me that McDonalds missed the marketing target…

The point of the retiring Ronald McDonald really isn’t about whether he is a creepy clown or effective marketing mascot though.  It is about stopping corporations that sell unhealthy products from intentionally circumventing parental influence and advertising poor choices directly to our children.  It should never have been allowed, and it has to be stopped now.  For the exact same reason that we are outraged that the camel on the packs of cigarettes became a cartoon character named Joe Camel so he could entice young kids to smoke, we should be outraged that McDonald’s has done the same thing for a much longer time.

By the way, the funny thing about the mascots being ineffective is how stupid I am to think this. McDonald’s has spent billions of dollars on advertising.  They have written the book on so many of these techniques including happy meals and play places.  My thought that the advertising characters were not effective is probably due to the fact that by the time I even realized that I knew what they were, they had already succeeded at making McDonald’s part of my life.

So, go to Retire Ronald and sign the petition and get involved!

If you need another reason to do so, think about this quote from Ray Crock and read additional information directly from the Retire Ronald website:

“Back in the days when we first got a company airplane, we used to spot good locations for McDonald’s stores by flying over a community and looking for schools. Now we use a helicopter, and it’s ideal.”

Why Should Ronald McDonald Retire?

The national epidemic of diet-related disease puts our children’s health and lives at stake. Young children do not understand advertising’s persuasive intent, yet McDonald’s crafts their advertising messages to specifically appeal to kids. Ronald is one of the most recognized and effective icons in marketing to children, setting them up for a lifetime of unhealthy eating habits and, ultimately, chronic disease.

From city hall to McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill. there are a few things policymakers and executives should do to give Ronald a proper send off.

Mcdonald’s should:

• end all use of celebrities, cartoons, and branded and licensed characters that appeal to children;

• eliminate all gifts, toys, collectibles, games or other incentive items from kids meals; and

• remove all advertising and promotional materials from places children visit frequently including schools, playgrounds, recreation and community centers, and pediatric health care centers.

What the rest of us can do to bid Ronald adieu.  here’s how to Get Involved on the individual And community level:

• Join Corporate Accountability International in calling on McDonald’s to retire Ronald;

• Go to to volunteer, learn more, and take actions to protect children’s health and safeguard our food systems;

• Support local policy efforts, like eliminating all marketing, advertising and sales of fast food from school grounds, property in immediate proximity to schools, children’s libraries, playgrounds and other places where children visit frequently as well as hospitals serving children;

• Support international policy efforts that encourage national governments to respond to this growing public health crisis by curbing the advertisement, marketing and promotion of unhealthy food products to children and young people.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 11, 2010 5:01 pm

    Love the post, Mark. That quote from Ray Kroc always makes my stomach turn.

    • YouAreNotAFitPerson permalink*
      April 11, 2010 10:07 pm

      Thanks Nick,

      I wanted to ask you if it was okay if I used one of your pictures or Ronald in his rocking chair to link to your site.

      As well, I was thinking about ways to tackle this issue… I am aware that Subway has a nutrition and a marketing policy for advertising to children. They are called the SUBWAY® Nutrition Criteria For Children’s Meals and the SUBWAY® Marketing Policy For Children, and I think they are excellent standards for marketing to children.

      I was also thinking about the ‘Scanning Code of Practice’, which can be viewed here: What interests me about the Scanning Code of Practice is the collaboration from the different retail organizations in creating and agreeing on a code of practice that is clearly in the best interests of the consumer.

      How hard would it be to create a ‘Restaurant Code of Conduct for Advertising to Children’ and ask the restaurants to buy in? It could include the following:

      All meals that are advertised as Kids Meal’s must include the following:

      #1. Only meals that fit the nutritional criteria listed below can be packaged as kids meals and certified as such.
      #2. Only meals that are certified under these criteria can be:
      a)advertised to children (advertised during peak children’s TV times)
      b)contain a gifts, toy, collectible, games or other incentive item (any modification to the meal to change its nutritional criteria out of the range listed below would eliminate the toy).
      #3. No restaurant in the program will use any celebrities, cartoons, or branded and licensed characters that appeal to children.
      #4. No restaurant will advertise any kid’s meal that is not certified.

      All the kids’ meals must meet the following specific nutrition criteria:
      Less than 400 calories
      Low Fat/ <30% calories from fat
      Low Saturated Fat <10% calories from saturated fat
      Trans Fat Free, meals contain absolutely no partially-hydrogenated oil
      Contain at least 1 serving of fruit or vegetable
      Less than 5% calories from added sugar
      High Fructose Corn Syrup free
      Beverage must be either milk (1% fat or less) or water.

      Certainly this is just a quick guideline, but is this something that Corporate Accountability International would be interested in?

    • April 12, 2010 12:12 pm

      Hey Mark: Totally fine to use the logo. As for the Code of Conduct, this is something that you should definitely speak to our team about. If you shoot me your email I’ll get you in touch with the right folks on our end to explore this further.

  2. Brian Wimer permalink
    November 29, 2010 5:59 pm

    Three moms are leading a national campaign vs the clowns of Big Fast Food.
    It’s called NOMAC: National Organization of Moms Against Clowns. Seriously.

    See their new video at

    See their temporary web page at

    Right now they are competing for funding – voting happens Monday and Tuesday.
    Would be great if you could circulate their info.

  3. September 1, 2011 6:54 am

    Great article, thank you!

    This is my perspective on the issue:

    The effect of advertisements on children



  1. Advertising + Children « Advertising

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