Both Ronald McDonald and the Burger King are taking heat – the former for luring children into unhealthy eating habits and the latter for a recent television advertisement that activist groups say makes fun of people suffering from mental illness.
A new website called RetireRonald.com is on McDonalds’ case. Its homepage depicts the clown showing up in the Children’s Marketing Icons Retirement Home, where the Marlboro Man, Joe Camel and Spuds McKenzie are playing cards. A sidebar connected to the picture says, “For nearly 50 years no one has been better at hooking kids on unhealthy food, spurring an epidemic of diet-related disease. Ronald deserves a break, and so do we! “
Burger King aroused the wrath of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health America, who object to ads depicting the King as “crazy” and “insane” for wanting to sell his products at such low prices. He is subdued in the ad by two white-jacketed medical types.
According to CBS, McDonald’s said “Ronald is the beloved brand ambassador for McDonald’s and we have no plans to retire him.” And Washington Post reports that Burger King issued a statement, saying, “The creative concepts used to bring this to life were meant to highlight the King’s unchecked enthusiasm about giving his guests a Steakhouse-quality sandwich at a great price and were not intended to reflect any group or situation.”
RBR-TVBR observation: The two companies under attack are similar, but the attacks are very different. Burger King’s is mostly a one-timer, a mere skirmish; McDonald’s has the potential to hang around for quite some time.
As for the Burger King issue, as a business which pumps out thousands upon thousands of words on a daily basis, we understand both the need to avoid hurting a group of people for no good reason; we also understand the ease with which it is possible to do that unintentionally. Nobody agrees where the line should be drawn, but we feel quite certain that BK has no agenda against any group that might want to buy a hamburger and is not likely to repeat this sort of ad any time soon.
The attack on McDonald’s, on the other hand, is just another milestone in the raging battle over childhood obesity and the role marketing practices have in exacerbating the problem. Expect the website to be up for a good long time and for other attacks as well – and while McDonald’s is the unwitting star of this particular attack, all of its competitors will be in it just as deeply.