March 30th, 2010
11:31 AM ET

Group tells Ronald McDonald to take a hike

By Madison Park
CNNhealth.com writer/producer

A corporate watchdog group that got rid of Joe Camel is after another icon - this time, its target is tall, red and happy.

Corporate Accountability International plans to host a retirement party for Ronald McDonald as it releases a report Wednesday that basically says,  "We’re not loving it. " The report calls for McDonald’s to stop using the iconic 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.”

The group plans to hold events outside of McDonald's throughout the country and wants the fast food chain to stop using its corporate mascot.  The mascot makes children “vulnerable to manipulations to marketing” and turns them on to junk food at an age when childhood obesity rates  have soared, Lapidus said.

The group is employing the same strategy as it did to target the cigarette mascot in its “Send Joe Camel packing” campaign in the 1990s.

“A lot of our thinking is modeled on that campaign and success,” Lapidus said.  “We think of Ronald McDonald as a deep-fried Joe Camel for 21st century.”

McDonald’s does not appear to have plans to ditch the clown.  The company released a statement to CNN.com calling Ronald McDonald “a beloved brand ambassador for McDonald's” and described him as crucial to its charity efforts to help families of hospitalized children.

“Ronald also helps deliver messages to families on many important subjects such as safety, literacy, and the importance of physical activity and making balanced food choices. That's what Ronald McDonald is all about, which our customers know and appreciate,” according to the statement.

Lapidus said the fast food giant's message has  some “fundamental ironies.”

“McDonald’s charity does a lot of good and they do work to be commended,” she said.  “But there are serious question about the face of the charity that’s about kids getting better that also promotes unhealthy food to kids.  Could it not serve the same children without the cross promotion of burgers and fries which are affecting kids' health?”

Other McDonald’s characters, such as Hamburglar or Grimace (the purple triangular fellow) can rest easy.  Health advocates are not targeting them.

soundoff (1,361 Responses)
  1. maxie

    really if anyone has to go it is the creepy Burger King.

    March 30, 2010 at 16:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Amy

    The clown isn't the hook for kids wanting McDonald's fast food. It's the Happy Meal toys and marketing deals from major movies, toys and other novelties.

    March 30, 2010 at 16:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. jal

    Sounds like this organization, needs a issue so that it can remain revelant . However, if this does not work, and I doubt it will, they should be recognized for idoicy at a minimum. I beleive these types of organizations will disappear into the trash bin of the stupidity in time.

    March 30, 2010 at 16:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. larry wi

    Next target, Burger King, king, and then little Wendy, hot and juicy, can't be good for kids! How about Sonic with roller skating female car hops, they to could be a bad influence on luring young male's into a life of fast food indulgence!

    March 30, 2010 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Carrie

    My daughter thinks Ronald McDonald is creepy and doesn't even know who Grimace is. She doesn't want to eat there for the clown. She wants to eat there because she likes the food. She'd never have wanted to go in the first place if I, as her parent, hadn't let her have that first Happy Meal. Leave poor Ronald alone. In this economy, even 50 year old icons need a paycheck!

    March 30, 2010 at 16:24 | Report abuse | Reply

    I can't believe this!! My kids don't make the choice of how much fast food they eat, I do. It is called parenting!! I am responsible for what they eat at home or away. Let's educate the Adults on their choices not go after a mascot.

    Ronald is not the problem it is the fact that education funding is being cut and we can no longer afford to teach beyond science, math, and english. Excercise combats obesity but education funding cuts ultimately mean cutting out sports (exercise) programs. These people need to do the right thing....take the $$$ you are spending on this and donate to the education for nutrient, diet, and exercise.

    March 30, 2010 at 16:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. willyd

    Has anyone even seen Ronald lately? I mean, what about all those sugary cereals being sold by cartoon characters on television? And this group is going after a clown?

    Parents who take their children to McDonald's for Happy Meals are who is responsible for getting the kids hooked on fast food.

    Just say no! Sure, they'll whine, but they will get over it. Then they will move on.

    March 30, 2010 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Amanda

    Give me a break! The clown didn't make those kids fat. If you go after the Clown, you are going to go have Captain Crunch, Count Chocula and all those other characters that match up with food that is bad for you. Grow up and take control of your own life.

    March 30, 2010 at 16:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Bobby

    Get a life!!! This has to stop somewhere! Why can't people take responsibility for there own actions and decisions? Quit putting the blame on some product mascot! If you don't want to be obese, don't eat fastfood and if you don't want to smoke, don't light up! Leave Ronald McDonald alone. He's an American icon that hasn't done anything to harm anybody. Humans are there own worst enemy!!!

    March 30, 2010 at 16:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. JB

    I do not think that RMcD is the cause of obesity in children. These troubles start at home. With more control and supervision with the kids there would not be the problem. Tell them to stop finding an escape goat and start looking in a mirror.

    March 30, 2010 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. lfcalif

    Dear parents. don't take your kids to McDonald's for 3 meals a day. You have a responsiblity to say no. Why is it always someone else's fault. Be a parent means sometimes daying no.

    March 30, 2010 at 16:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Nicole

    How can someone blame it on an icon of a Restaurant? When are people going to wake up and realize it is the parent's own fault for introducing and abusing the fast food??? Kids don't get fat by themselves, their parents teach them the eating habits, as well as the attitude of eating, especially overindulging. These people need to get a life, I understand the Joe Camel, as it is disgusting to say that smoking is cool, but Ronald McDonald?? C'mon people.......take responsibility for your own actions, and quit blaming the fact that kids are obese on something else.....take charge!

    March 30, 2010 at 16:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. cindy

    PARENTS need to teach good eating habits. Don't blame a clown for your poor parenting and laziness.

    March 30, 2010 at 16:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. dcjb

    If the clown is to blame for kids eating too many fries, then they should also ban the Lucky Charms leprechan and the Trix bunny, just for starters! it is ultimately the parents job to teach their kids to eat healthfully, and the blame for obese kids lies with the parents. I raised 2 kids to near adults, normal weight, by saying NO! to the drivethru and teaching them to balance thier diets and to cook for themselves.

    March 30, 2010 at 16:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Amanda

    When is it time for parents to take some responsibility for their kids! Can a five year old drive to McDonalds by themselves and by the food? No! the parents take them, and as far as I am concerned McDonalds should be a choice. When I was a kid it was a treat, we can't control everything people eat, say and do! I am proud to be an American and part of that means having freedom of choice, I can choose my religion and what I want to eat! So let's stop targeting legitimate American businesses such as McDonalds because some parents can't stop their kids from eating themselves into Obesity.

    March 30, 2010 at 16:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Beth

    It is such a relief to see that there are groups out there addressing the abusive marketing practices of large corporations.

    How can a parent compete with the millions of dollars the fast food industry spends on advertising? Sure, parents can say no, but how easy is that when a child has been inundated with images of a happy clown in places like schools and libraries? Everyone is vulnerable to advertising, but especially children.

    McDonald's developed the clown to sell burgers, fries, and other "food" that is not only fueling an epidemic of obesity but is destroying our entire food system. Films like Food, Inc. and books such as Fast Food Nation clearly show the negative impact the fast food industry has on the health of people and our planet. I support any effort to make a dent in the sales of fast food companies – retiring Ronald seems like a great way to start!

    March 30, 2010 at 16:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Jim

    I think Ronald should go because he is scary! Just look at his face!

    March 30, 2010 at 16:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. jb

    Lazy Liberals will stop at nothing to keep from actually taking responsibility for their children. Point blank . .. your child is fat because you let them get that way, its 100% your choice

    March 30, 2010 at 16:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. garth

    I actually ate very little McDonalds as a child-for 2 reasons...I can't stand clowns and I always thought Ronald was scary but the main reason is that my parents were responsible enough not to shove crappy food down our throats. Why parents do this to our children is beyond me, but very sad.

    March 30, 2010 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Allan

    Ronald promotes the restaurant and the Happy Meal product which include healthy choices. The parents should be able to control what their children eat. What are the next icons targeted? Tony the Tiger, Digg'em, Trix Rabbit, Lucky, (excessively sugared cereals), Scooby Doo (snack foods and over eating),? Under this logic, apparently Snoopy incites children to buy insurance (MetLife mascot).

    March 30, 2010 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. 12345

    I agree that healthy eating habits (and bad ones) start at home. It is also a good point that the playgrounds probably make the kids want to go there more than Ronald McDonald...I did not even know he was still popular. On a side note, clowns still freak me out, so he is not the reason I would be going to McDonalds.

    March 30, 2010 at 16:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Gilasevi

    Much like circuses or wild animal water parks, the clown is an old dated creepy, unhealthy thing.

    Ultimately its the parents though. I still hear them use the promise of McDonalds to control kids behaviours and love the quick fast ease of dinner/lunch responsibilities of any fast food drive through.

    March 30, 2010 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Joy, AL

    Ronald McDonald did not make anyone's parents get the kids, force them in the car and drive them to McDonald's. It's just another example of people not taking personal responsibility. Yes, children are unhealthier today than ever, that's why parents have to take charge of their eating habits more strongly. To accuse McDonald's as the culprit of all children being fat is outrageous.

    Personal Responsibility. It's time to own up to our own short comings and lead our children by example, not teaching them how to blame everyone else for their own problems!

    March 30, 2010 at 16:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Mike

    More proof that parents are getting softer and lazier.

    Here's some free expert advice for said lazy parents. When small children ask to go to McDonalds you can either –
    1) say no (my parents excelled at this technique...and you can too)!
    2) order some of the healthier options, like meals with the milk and apple slices

    We need to resist the actions and wishes of these groups before our kids are so coddled, smothered, spoiled, and sheltered that they can't provide for, think for, and protect themselves and us (once we are in our later years). This behavior will come back to bite us.

    March 30, 2010 at 17:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Henry

    Finally! I've been amazed that the country let this go on for so long. How could we ever hope to have our kids grow up to be healthy individuals if we didn't have someone to watch over them for us?

    March 30, 2010 at 17:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Amber

    It's true to blame the parents, they should control their kids eating habits and cravings more. it's not like the children can go out and buy the bad food themselves, but when raised with that ad and not able to get it the child may feel curious about the product. So this shows one true fact, no matter how the situation is taken care of, the child will go after the food. Not to mention pressure from friends. It's the product itself that is a problem. Everyone knows how unheathy McDonalds, and other fast food chains, is/are, why not cut of the source? Fast food is bad, so why hasn't it been taken care of? It needs to be, and until it is, child obesidy will only get worse, as will health care, and McDonalds will only get stronger and richer.

    March 30, 2010 at 17:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. uh huh

    @ Chris – the Burger King guy does need to be removed. Creepy plastic face. Ick. Scary!

    March 30, 2010 at 17:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. MaxTalk

    He is a fictional character. Any decent parent could discuss that with their four-year old. Of course, that requires parental responsibility. And like all things modern, we know that parents of today do not take responsibility for their offspring. Personal responsibility is something that we have lost in this country and I truly doubt we will ever get it back. This is yet another fine example.

    March 30, 2010 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Spock

    There will always be some Nut Cases Trying to run others business. Time for them to back off and smell what they been shoveling

    March 30, 2010 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. LT

    Are you kidding me? The kids don't take themselves to McDonalds – the parents do – the parents are the main reason for childhood obesity in this country – stop blaming everyone. Seriously, when is enough enough with these "consumer advocate" groups.

    March 30, 2010 at 17:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Susan

    Why is it that these groups have so much time on their hands? Oh, pulleeze!!!!! Moderation is the watch word when it comes to fast food. It's up to parents to make that call & feed their children. What are these guys anyways? Fast food Nazis???? Long live Ronald McDonald!!!!

    March 30, 2010 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Belthead

    It doesn't matter if it's Joe Camel, Ronald McDonald or the Easter Bunny, the choices people make (and by people I mean adults and the children they are responsible for) should not be blamed on an icon or marketing figure.
    So, those of you that refuse to believe being over weight is YOUR fault, or that you smoke because YOU want to smoke and any illness from it is YOUR fault, or that your kids binge on chocolate at Easter because YOU let them, by all means... blame anything but yourself. There are generations that grew up with Ronald McDonald and did not become fat, they enjoyed it in moderation. We all have choices to make, and it is up to us to give our kids the tools to make smart choices.

    A final thought... so many die each year from alcohol related accidents and illness... why don't we petition to have Jack Daniels called Poison Jack or Bud Lite called Car Crash in a Can?
    Oops, my mistake... alcohol is OK, because we can tell people to "Drink responsibly"... You make your choices, you live with the consequences, and it is all your fault, good or bad.

    March 30, 2010 at 17:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. LT

    @Henry – they should have someone watching over them – they are called parents!! Why must they always place the blame on everyone else (the business, the gov't, etc.) Is McDonald's unhealthy – for the most part, yes. As a parent, I know that and make choices for MY kids based on MY personal responsibility for them.

    March 30, 2010 at 17:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Paul

    What part of Red China does Corporate Accountability International come from?

    People like them believe that if you don't agree with them, then they will force you to agree with them. They are the ones that should be retired not Ronald.

    March 30, 2010 at 17:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Take Responsibility

    You can't just blame the clown for the kid eating that Mcdonalds stuff and getting Fat.

    Someone gave that kid allowance money.
    Someone failed to regulate the kids' exercise and let them sit indoors playing xbox all day.
    Someone failed to provide good tasting but nutritional meals.
    Someone failed to let their children know the dangers of their health.

    Was this ronald mcdonald? Will getting rid of ronald mcdonald cure these issues, or will the children simply move on to some other fast food?

    The core here is that the parents should take responsibility.

    March 30, 2010 at 18:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. CalgarySandy

    Symbols, like language, help program the brain. This is why, years ago, the whole idea of boy's toys and girl's toys was dispensed with. I see it has returned in some stores. However, I don't think it is the fault of the companies that advertise. You don't ever have to take your child to Macdonalds. This is an issue that falls right on the parents and no where else. Maybe we could make it a law that parents must take care of their children in other ways than a roof and meal.

    We have known in the general public about the dangers of these kinds of foods for decades. Why are people still eating them? Because they care more about tastiness (Ugh) than life. They care more about ease than the lives and health of their children. Why should Macdonalds, where I do not eat and dislike the culture it produces, have to pay for the ineptitude of its customers.

    I see many comments on the net that indicate many parents are utterly ignorant of what is going on in their children's lives, the schools, and the country at large. Why? Since when does ignorance make you a better parent? Instead of learning and then teaching, these parents appear to just throw their hands in the air and let the logo culture lead their children. Then they sue Macdonalds or whatever for making their choices for them.

    You cannot avoid Macdonalds and other Maccultural items. I managed to avoid it until birthday parties started up. My son had his birthday party at Macdonalds that year too. He knew from the beginning that this food was not healthy and was no where near as good as what I cooked. Ah, there it is. Cook what they like at home. Provide them with genuine culture at home so they are not out looking for a logo to support.

    It is easy to be a good parent. From the day you conceive until the day they are fully functional and safe you have a 24/7 job. If people do not want this kind of responsibility they should not have children. Period. Personally, as a parent. I know my job will be done when I take my last breathe because my heart depends on him being safe.

    March 30, 2010 at 18:05 | Report abuse | Reply

    oh JHC when will these people GROW UP??? No BIG GOVERNMENT unless WE don't like it...then we will protest, complain, whine and snivel until you do what WE want. Get a job and get out of our faces.

    March 30, 2010 at 18:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. mrsmarvel

    I am pretty sure Ronald McDonald didn't "lure in" children to get them addicted. It's called free enterprise. The creepy clown is just another marketing gimmick that if abolished will not slow the obesity problem one bit, just like the absence of Joe Camel hasn't put a dent in smoking.

    March 30, 2010 at 18:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Erin

    It seems to me that most people here (rightfully) believe that it's the parent's choice what their kids eat, and that in the end no one, including a clown, is forcing these parents to go to McDonald's and buy their kids unhealthy food. I agree – responsible parenting and healthy eating are, in the end, the solutions to this problem!

    However, isn't it also true that McDonald's has a part in the process? No one commenting here is so ignorant as to believe that McDonald's or its advertising team isn't giving their upmost efforts to sell, sell, sell! Come on, guys; you know that the blame neither lies entirely with parents nor with McDonald's.

    I think we are all on the same page, as well, in believing that McDonald's food IS horribly unhealthy for children and that parents SHOULD NOT give in (whether it's due to convenience, whiny kids, or financial status) and try to hold out from buying fast food for their kids. If we all agree on these basics, we can also agree on the fact that any way to negate kids eating this crap is a positive step...right?!

    Retiring Ronald is, as previously stated, not going to stop all kids from eating fastfood everywhere, forever, and make everyone healthy again. What it will do is stop one facet of McDonald's effort to market to kids, thus bypassing what parental authority exists in the first place. Maybe the less kids see Ronald, the less they'll be aware of McDonald's as they grow up in the future.

    How can you argue with an effort to stop providing unhealthy products to children? Yes it's up to the parents, but McDonald's is clearly a vital factor in the equation too.

    Once you stop, and really see this issue for what it is, (a simple desire for parents to have a choice in what they feed their kids, and public health to be valued by families nation-wide), and not anyone "forcing you to agree with them," I think you'd have to agree. Retiring Ronald McDonald is not a government tactic to control our lives; it's a step to reduce child obesity by letting kids grow up sans-Big Macs.

    March 30, 2010 at 18:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. TL Bailey

    Can We retire the "Corporate Accountability International" group as well.

    This time I cannot agree with them. They must be trying to become as useless as the ACLU. I stopped supporting that dinosaur when they file lawsuits because the 10 Commandments are in a Government building.......... adding CAI to this list too.

    March 30, 2010 at 18:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Tish

    As a parent I can see where they are coming from, but I think their time could be more productive else where. We hardly ever give our kids McDonald's because it is just so unhealthy, and we've taught them that, but it's the "fun" aspect of it that attracts them.

    We had Chipotle's the other day and both our kids, 4 and 2 said it was better than McDonald's. They volunteered that info up on their own. (For those who don't know Chipotle's, it's a healthy, organic and grass fed fast food option.) When we offered our kids the option of going to Chipotle's instead of ever returning to Md's, they said they'd still rather go to MD's because it's more fun there and they have toys. They still agree the food isn't very good, but it is more fun.

    It would be nice to have a healthy kids place to eat that is fun too. For us it's not a huge deal because Md's is a once or twice a year thing for us, but I know lots of parents that take their kids there all the time and it's just so unhealthy.

    March 30, 2010 at 19:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. G-Dog

    Frankly, clowns scare most children and repulse most adults. There's just something creepy about a grown man in make-up and toy clothing. McDonald's should have retired the clown in the 70's, about when the John Wayne Gacy story came to light.
    If anything, I watch my kids especially well when they play at McD's; you never know when an evil clown bearing burgers will appear.

    March 30, 2010 at 19:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Lance Miller

    I don't recall the last time I saw Ronald McDonald prominently featured in a McDonald's television ad. Besides, Ronald McDonald is thin and should be heralded as a role model because of this. Corporate Accountability International should be going after The Grimace or Mayor McCheese because they appear to be large and overweight.

    March 30, 2010 at 19:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. whatdouno

    unbelievable....can't believe my eyes this is so foolish....McDonalds and the rest of the fast food places are fine when they are a treat for the kids.....the people that are protesting need to get a life....pretty soon we're going to be told when we can eat a candy bar or go to the bathroom....just a waste of time.

    March 30, 2010 at 19:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Bob

    Soon there will not be anything funny anymore, parents not watch groups should be watching what kids eat . Last I looked we were
    a socialist state but a free country where we do have freedom of choice, Our CHOICE!!!! Igrew up going to Mcy Ds here and ther as a treat. I still go but still only for something quick! Its true! We the parents should take care of our kids Not a News Paper!!! Or watch group!

    March 30, 2010 at 19:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Dave

    The members of Corporate Accountability International need to get a life.

    March 30, 2010 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Dan

    Where are the parents in the loop? Is the implication here that parents are now too stupid to govern the food intake of kids young enough to be influenced by a clown? Are little kids just running to McDonalds on their own? And comparing McDonalds to Camel cigarettes is ridiculous.

    March 30, 2010 at 19:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. nugun

    McDonald's doesn't force you to choose the Big Mac and large fries over the apples and salads.

    So don't blame them for your lack of self control.

    March 30, 2010 at 19:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. harrison

    hey ronald, tell em to go f themselves, just a scapegoat for parents to have zero accountability

    March 30, 2010 at 19:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. crzymom

    Really people? RELAX just a bit will you? What's next the Pillsbarry Doe Boy????

    March 30, 2010 at 19:36 | Report abuse | Reply
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