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Critics Round On Ronald McDonald

Ronald McDonald can’t catch a break. Over 550 health professionals and institutions on Wednesday published a full-page open letter to McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner in newspapers across the country. The headline: “Stop Marketing Junk Food To Kids.” It doesn’t get any blunter than that. The ad is sponsored by the non-profit Corporate Accountability International.


It comes on the back of Ronald McDonald’s recent television commercial promoting McDonald’s Happy Meals website where kids can upload their pictures. The letter says: “We ask that you heed our concern and retire your marketing promotions for food high in salt, fat, sugar and calories to children, whatever form they take – from Ronald McDonald to toy giveaways.”

The most recent television commercial is either cleverly done or responsibly done, depending on how you look at it. Ronald doesn’t actually eat burgers and there are two shots of children eating small chicken nuggets from a Happy Meal. In the ad, Ronald delivers a “Ronald-Gram” to children and declares, “I hope your day’s fantabulous with smiles at least this big!”

Nutritionists are not smiling. The letter says children’s diets are also the responsibility of parents, but it contends that children are “bombarded” with fast-food marketing. Almost one in three children are obese or overweight, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

McDonald’s has come to the defense of Ronald in a statement responding to the open letter: “McDonald’s cares about kids.  We are committed to responsible advertising and take our communications to children very seriously.” It adds, “We serve high quality food, and our Happy Meals offer choice and variety in portions just for kids.”

The statement says the company understands the importance of children’s health and nutrition, and says it offers food with a variety of choice and portions for kids: “As the face of Ronald McDonald House Charities, Ronald is an ambassador for good and delivers important messages to kids on safety, literacy and balanced, active lifestyles.”

Is it time to lay off the clown?


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  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.