There's a move afloat to force the fast-food giant to retire its spokesclown. Groups led by the Marin Institute are targeting the clown, claiming he exerts too much influence on children and he's hindering the fight against childhood obesity.
I think Marin is way off-base. Although it's been quite a while, I know Ronald and his parent company McDonald's Corp. personally. Before I started my own agency 20 years ago, I ran the agency account team serving McDonald's here in the tri-state New York area, with nearly 350 stores at the time.
Yes, Ronald sold Happy Meals, but he also taught kids about fire safety, exercise, nutrition, literacy and more. There's a lot more to Ronald than big feet and Happy Meals.
In the New York market alone, we had five actors who played Ronald, for store and school and community appearances, where he'd talk to kids about a variety of safety and health issues. I never heard Ronald tell a kid to go get a Happy Meal.
McDonald's takes Ronald very seriously. He's part of a carefully crafted public relations program that puts more emphasis on issues and community relations than on the food the company sells. Build a good reputation and people will come to the stores -- not only for Big Macs, but for salads too.
Build a good reputation and people will stick by you when there's a problem, whether it's a shooting in a store or a food-related problem.
So let's give Ronald a break. While he's talking to kids about nutrition and safety issues, parents should be using restraint in what they let their kids eat. The national childhood obesity problem can't all be blamed on a clown.