McDonald’s Sends Out the Clown

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If Ronald McDonald could ever have wiped that perpetual smile off his face, he could have seen his demise coming a mile away.

Ronald – the iconic clown used by McDonalds to appeal to kids for decades – isn’t dead yet, but the chain seems to be benching him.

After 48 years, Bloomberg reports, McDonalds has been distancing itself from the clown mascot that got its start when eventual TV weatherman Willard Scott morphed his Bozo character into a brand-specific cousin in a promotion for Washington, D.C. area McDonald’s.

Rumors of his demise have been around for a while; indeed, some “video artists” have taken it upon themselves to hold the character hostage (warning: it doesn’t end well for Ronald.)

A few years ago, the company essentially sidelined Ronald’s friends in McDonaldland, such as Mayor McCheese and the Hamburglar.

Now, the US war on Happy Meals and marketing with toys in an era when there’s national outcry from the White House on down about childhood obesity seem to have dealt Ronald a blow that eventually will indeed prove fateful.[more]

In an era of overwhelming national concern about childhood obesity, it’s no longer de rigueur for McDonalds to use Happy Meals to actually entice kids  to eat hamburgers.

And in his place, perhaps sadly, McDonalds is aiming more for the adult crowd with its coffees, frappes and salads. Ronald is mainly relegated to spot appearances around the country at schools and, creditably, at the chain’s 300 Ronald McDonald Houses that lodge parents who need to be near their sick children during treatment.

So, what are fast-food fans left with, now that Ronald and his nostalgic countenance seem destined for Mascot Heaven? The King – that’s right, Burger King’s creepy mascot who obviously is aimed at college kids, not impressionable children.

That said, the Ronald McDonald character and Happy Meal advertising are still prominent in pre-show advertising in Kids On Demand channels on cable systems belong to Time Warner Cable and other US operators. So perhaps Ronald won’t be as visible publicly, but kids can still see him — whether their parents are aware of it or not.

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