A consumer advocacy group thinks killing Ronald McDonald will result in fewer heart patients in years to come.
Corporate Accountability International, has put a hit out on Ronald McDonald due to his so-called “predatory marketing” of fatty food to children.
The group presented an open letter calling for Ronald’s retirement signed by more than 1,000 health care professionals at McDonald’s annual meeting. Not surprisingly, McDonald’s doesn’t seem to be springing into fast action.
I may be in the minority of health care marketers on this, but I am firmly in McDonald’s camp on this issue.
This may be a surprise to some people. I freely espouse my convictions about healthy eating and its effect on long-term health. And much of my livelihood depends on health care marketing. So what gives?
The simple answer is that the former journalist and current advertising professional in me bristle at attempts to quell marketers’ freedom of speech. I think it’s dangerous. What’s next? Should we kill the Energizer Bunny because children could get burned by leaking batteries or because disposing of batteries improperly potentially causes environmental harm?
Or should your cardiovascular center’s ads be censored because they might be too “engaging” and potentially promote false hope? Sound far-fetched? I’m not so sure. This type of extreme watchdog strategy has a way of bleeding over into companies’ (and hospitals’) legitimate rights to market their products in a way that connects with their target audiences.
Ronald may be the villain of the day, but he’s really just one in a long list of recognizable characters that have hawked food that is unhealthy if eaten in large quantities. What about Mr. Peanut? Tony the Tiger? Cap’n Crunch? The Keebler Elves? Maybe they should be taking note because it seems like they could be next on the hit list.
I think what really incenses me is this group’s insinuation that American parents are stupid. I still have faith that consumers can sift through marketing messages to make reasonable choices for themselves and their families.
If not, we really have a much bigger problem on our hands than Ronald McDonald.