Ask any McDonald’s executive in the UK what they hate most about their job and most of them will say (privately of course) Ronald McDonald, the hugely irritating clown (he’s been called worse) who has fronted the fast food giant’s marketing to children for decades.
In comparison Morgan Spurlock, who made the film Supersize Me about living on Big Macs for a month, is positively popular.
But they see things rather differently in the US and CEO Jim Skinner is mounting a vigorous campaign to defend Ronald and all he stands for in a battle with the US government which wants to curb marketing of fatty foods to children and watchdog Corporate Accountability International which is leading the campaign against McDonald’s.
“Ronald McDonald is going nowhere,” Skinner told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting. “He is an ambassador of McDonald’s and he is an ambassador for good.”
McDonald’s has performed heroically in recent years, riding changes in the fast food market, introducing healthier food amd moving strongly into the coffee market. It’s even planning to give its thousands of branches a Starbucks-style makeover to appeal to the internet browsing classes.
But it’s still hooked on its antediluvian approach to marketing to children and the iconic symbol of this, the distressing Ronald McDonald.
This, unlike surviving Spurlock’s assault, might be a battle it can’t win.