The Corporate Accountability International brought clowns and retired spokesman Joe Camel to draw attention to its call for McDonald’s to retire Ronald McDonald. ( Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune)
By Wailin Wong | A
corporate watchdog group renewed its call for McDonald’s to retire
Ronald McDonald, hoping to build on momentum from a recent White House
report recommending that food companies stop marketing junk food to
Boston-based Corporate Accountability International, whose previous
campaigns include the retirement of Joe Camel, held a protest in
downtown Chicago on Wednesday that kicked off at Millennium Park and
ended at the retro McDonald’s restaurant at 600 N. Clark.
The group, consisting of about 20 protesters, also made a stop outside the Tribune Tower. Some members were dressed as clowns and held signs saying “Chicagoans for Retiring Ronald” and “Clowns for Retiring Ronald.” Other activists were dressed as Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man.
Corporate Accountability launched its campaign to retire Ronald McDonald in late March. The group is also planning to send representatives to McDonald’s annual shareholder meeting on Thursday morning in Oak Brook, although it did not submit a shareholder’s resolution on the matter for consideration. Instead, the group will try to get to the microphone during the open question-and-answer session and hand-deliver written comments from concerned consumers to executives.
“A resolution is a tactic we might employ in the future,” said senior organizer Deborah Lapidus.
Lapidus said the continued use of Ronald McDonald as a mascot is unethical because his image “builds brand loyalty and eating habits that can last a lifetime” among children who are vulnerable to such marketing. She added that McDonald’s has “transformed Ronald to appear to be the ambassador of their corporate social responsibility programs,” sending him to schools, libraries and other locations where parents are often absent.
The Ronald retirement campaign is just the most symbolic aspect of the group’s campaign, which asks McDonald’s to quit targeting kids directly with all forms of marketing.
“Retiring Ronald is just the beginning,” Lapidus said. “Really, Ronald is the pioneer of marketing to kids that all marketing icons have since emulated.”
In a written statement, McDonald’s affirmed its support for its mascot and said the “beloved brand ambassador” is here to stay.
In addition to representing Ronald McDonald House Charities, he “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,” the company said.