Leave it to Ronald McDonald: For never having been seen actually eating McDonald’s fast-food “cuisine,” this character can spark some serious feelings of satisfaction in the brains of young and old, all around the globe.
In a recent video filmed at balmy Kuala Lumpur’s Utama shopping mall (below), Ronald McDonald is the central figure responsible for a sledding hill being built from scratch inside the mall for all the masses to enjoy. From an outdoor temperature of 95 degrees F (35 degrees C), citizens gathered in the climate-controlled mall to take slides down the sledding hill, as Ronald is shown dumping off free wheelbarrow loads of fresh snow from a nearby snow-maker. Not a single fry was seen being gobbled down anywhere in sight.
The event was part of the mega-franchise’s Fun Makes All Things Happen campaign, according to Ad Age, which will have Ronald popping up around the globe to promote joy and an active lifestyle (but not the burgers, apparently).
McDonald’s recently updated Ronald McDonald’s duds in advance of the global excursion. Check out the new jacket the spokesclown can pull out of the closet now, the cargo-style pantaloons (below). At least they left those red shoes alone. How could those clownish monstrosities that Ronald calls feet have fitted in anything else?
For the Kuala Lumpur junket, though, Ronald McDonald went with his other new rugby shirt look. Surprise, surprise. How exciting for the little ones.
The mascot will be “engaging people in places where they are and to interact through their own social-media channels,” said the company’s director of global marketing, David Zlotnik. This viral strategy, he added, is “using Ronald to help drive new audiences and connect [with them] online.”
But NOT to eat the food, keep in mind. For several years, McDonald’s has faced pressure for using their mascots like Ronald McDonald to lure children to Happy Meals and other menu items that just aren’t nutritionally valuable. In response, the company unveiled in May a new character named Happy to be the lone mascot associated with the actual McDonald’s Happy Meal. So: Happy, a unisex character, is a talking Happy Meal box. What else?
Zlotnik explained to Ad Age, “Ronald represents the brand and Happy represents the Happy Meal.” Hm. We think we’ve got it now.
Over the past half-century, Ronald has evolved as the country’s feelings about eating processed food laden with saturated fats and mysterious preservatives has changed. In the past decade, since the 2004 release of the Morgan Spurlock’s documentary Super Size Me, the amount of viral backlash against the chain has intensified, even though it’s hard to notice it in the company’s quarterly earnings statements.
Back when Ronald McDonald was first unveiled as the company’s spokesman, he’d walk around dispensing burgers from a giant burger-dispensing belt around his waist. That’s not something you’ll see nowadays, said company CEO Don Thompson last month at its annual shareholders meeting.
“We are not predators,” he said, according to Market Watch. “We have been marketing responsibly. You don’t see Ronald McDonald eating food. You never see Ronald in schools.”
That may be the case today, but not too long ago, you’d see the mascot doing guest stints teaching children physical education classes at elementary schools and making appearances at libraries to hand out free ice cream coupons to the minions who’d come to see him preach about safety topics entirely unrelated to burgers and fries.
Fast-food industry critics like Jesse Bragg of Corporate Accountability International say the new strategy to relegate Ronald McDonald to other jobs is just a smoke-screen:
“They think that by not having him consume food, it’s not encouraging kids to patronize the brand,” Bragg told The Huffington Post.
Ronald McDonald officially stopped associating himself with McDonald’s food in 2006, when it joined the Better Business Bureau. But good luck getting children to disassociate the mascot from the brand he was born to promote.
“There’s a test in marketing where they put people under a full magnetic resonance imaging machine, like a brain scan essentially, and they show people images, and different parts of the brain light up,” Adam Hanft, founder of the Hanft Projects marketing company, told HuffPo. “If you showed kids Ronald McDonald, all the reward centers of the brain would go f**king crazy like July 4th. Because he equals the hamburger.”
To some, Ronald McDonald equals something all together more menacing. Geoffrey Giuliano, who played Ronald McDonald for a few years in the late 1970s, has become a vociferous opponent of the McDonald’s franchise and its calorie-heavy menu. To this day, the converted vegetarian thinks of the franchise as one that could care less about building a children’s charity (Ronald McDonald House) or feeding children right.
“Ronald himself,” Giuliano said in an interview at McSpotlight, “the deification of that meat-eating Godhead, is a cover, just a cover for their greed. Like their charities, the Ronald McDonald Houses. They care about as much for dying kids as they do for live kids. They only care about the money, just the money.”
To read the full statement that Giuliano made in penance for his time playing not just Ronald McDonald but also the Marvelous Magical Burger King in years to come, visit here.
[Image courtesy of McDonald’s]