McDonald’s mascot Ronald McDonald has been a symbol of the fast food brand since the 1960s. Yet he’s never seen eating or holding McDonald’s signature sandwich, the Big Mac, in advertising anymore.
McDonald’s CEO Donald Thompson recently explained that the company banned burgers and fries from Ronald’s public appearances so that the mascot wouldn’t be perceived as encouraging kids to eat unhealthy food.
“We are not predators,” Thompson said at the company’s annual shareholder’s meeting last month, according to a transcript of his remarks. “We have been marketing responsibly. …You don’t see Ronald McDonald eating food. And we don’t put Ronald out in schools.”
Thompson made the remarks, which were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, after parents criticised McDonald’s for targeting children in its advertising.
“You claim you care about kids,” one parent said to Thompson during the meeting, according to the transcript. “Your ads during Winter Olympics equated earning a gold medal with eating a Chicken McNugget. You say it’s about families, yet you continue to use Ronald McDonald to lure children. In my own neighbourhood of Columbus, Ohio, my children pay no attention to McDonald’s until a giant balloon of Ronald McDonalds appeared on its roof one day.”
The unidentified woman went on to compare Ronald McDonald to Joe Camel, the cartoon mascot for Camel cigarettes during the 1990s.
Thompson told the woman that Ronald McDonald is primarily used today to promote the company’s Ronald McDonald House charities and to entertain kids during birthday parties in McDonald’s restaurants. He discussed the company’s efforts to encourage children to eat more fruits and vegetables and noted that his kids eat McDonald’s and are still alive and well.
“As a parent, my children ate at McDonald’s,” he said.” They are here today. They are quite healthy. My daughter is a track star. I can’t run too much more because I’ve had six knee surgeries … but she can do a lot of things.”
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