Ronald McDonald Doesn’t Make Kids Fat; Hamburgers, Fries And A Coke Make Kids Fat

Corporate Accountability International ran a print ad on May 18 in newspapers in Chicago, New York, Boston, Baltimore, San Francisco and Minneapolis that calls for McDonald’s to stop marketing to children. “Mounting evidence points to the correlation between predatory marketing and the rise in diet-related illness among children and young people,” says the group, which brought Joe Camel to his knees several years ago.

“Marketing can no longer be ignored as a significant part of this massive problem,” argues the ad, which is signed by 550 health professionals and organizations.

McDonald’s, naturally has many defenders inside and outside of the press. Steve Chapman of The Chicago Tribune writes:

The food moralists imagine that McDonald’s marketing magic renders its targets helpless to resist.

But children young enough to be seduced by Ronald McDonald or Happy Meals rarely visit restaurants without parents. These adults are free agents experienced at saying “no” to protect the interests of their sometimes ungrateful offspring.

Al Lewis is a columnist for Dow Jones Newswires writes:

We’re fat. Our kids are fat. Our grandchildren are fat.

A watchdog group called Corporate Accountability International proposes a solution: Let’s scapegoat a clown.

And McDonald’s CEO, Jim Skinner, defended his company at a shareholder’s meeting this week.

Ronald McDonald is an ambassador for McDonald’s. And he’s an ambassador for good. He is the face of Ronald McDonald House. He does not advertise unhealthy food to children. McDonald’s does not advertise unhealthy food choices to children. We provide many choices that fit within the balanced active lifestyle. It is up them to choose. And it is up to their parents to choose. And it is their responsibility to do so.

Ronald McDonald is going nowhere.

What say you? Is Ronald McDonald an evil clown whose sole purpose in life is to make kids fat? And is it McDonald’s advertising, or its product and pricing that brings people to the Golden Arches?

The fast feeder has 32,000 restaurants worldwide, serving 64 million people a day. Last year, it had revenues of $24 billion, more than the gross domestic product of some countries.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. HighJive says:

    Like it or not, this goes to the heart of what we do for a
    living (provided readers are in the marketing and advertising industry). Are we
    going to agree that our efforts are successful or not? The “guns don’t kill,
    people do” argument shouldn’t absolve us of responsibility. Do the Marlboro Man
    and Joe Camel persuade people to smoke? If not, shouldn’t the advertising
    agencies responsible for the work tell the client that their efforts are
    ineffective? When we – as a civilized society – recognized the dangers of
    smoking and responded with warning labels and anti-smoking programs, did anyone
    really complain (besides Big Tobacco)? So what’s the difference between
    cigarettes and food that has been proven hazardous to our health? Be careful to
    listen to the columnists and reporters poo-pooing the “food moralists.” Many of
    them are likely on McDonald’s PR payroll. It’s no secret that the fast food
    industry employs lobbyists and PR wonks to seed messages that paint their
    critics as un-American, fringe lunatics.