Retiring Ronald

“What?” XUP Jr. said to me the other day. “They used to have television commercial for cigarettes?” She was dumbfounded.

Her question stemmed from some bit on TV about Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man. Those two mascots were retired thanks to the efforts of a corporate-responsibility watchdog group, Corporate Accountability International. This same group is now lobbying to retire Ronald McDonald

Retired physician Alfred David Klinger, a volunteer with the group, recently spoke at McDonald’s annual meeting, telling the company that:

Ronald McDonald is a pied piper drawing youngsters all over the world to food that is high in fat, sodium and calories. On the surface, Ronald is there to give children enjoyment in all sorts of way with toys, games and food. But Ronald McDonald is dangerous, sending insidious messages to young people.

In response, McDonald’s said something like, “No friggin’ way we’re retiring the clown.” What they actually said for the media was:

He communicates effectively with children and families around balanced, active lifestyles. He does not hawk food.

Okaaaaaay….

Since Ronald McDonald made his first TV appearance in 1963 (portrayed by Willard Scott), he’s become as recognizable as Santa Claus to children everywhere.

(Willard Scott’s original Ronald McDonald TV appearance, 1963)

Although Ronald seems to have left McDonaldland, Mayor McCheese, the Hamburglar, Grimace, Birdie the Early Bird, and The Fry Kids behind, he is still, and will continue to be The McDonald’s Corporation’s “Chief Happiness Officer.” (Yes, that’s what they actually call him)

But with childhood obesity a serious and growing problem, a lot of people are looking at fast food places to tone down their child-targeted advertising.

On the other hand, many people will say things like:

  • Stop trying to legislate how a restaurant wants to do business.
  • It’s parents’ responsibility to decide what their kids are going to eat, not the government’s.
  • Who cares about mascots and advertising – you always have the choice not to go to McDonald’s.

Except, as I’m sure parents of young children know, it’s not always that easy.

McDonald’s uses helicopters to search out locations for new restaurants. One of their main criteria is proximity to schools. So, if your kid has money and you’re not around, it’s easy for him to head next door to McDonald’s at lunchtime.

McDonald’s also offers free in-school shows to elementary schools. The shows, featuring Ronald McDonald live, are:  educational and interactive and help teach children about the environment, self-esteem, personal character, reading and fire safety. (And kids get valuable McDonald’s coupons and collectible toys)

In the U.S. children under 12 represent approximately $40 – $50 billion in direct purchasing power, and influence another $670 billion in family purchases every year.

Children aren’t able to assess and judge advertising in the same way adults can. Even one 30-second commercial can influence what a child as young as two wants. It’s no accident that the Ronald brand is everywhere – on TV, on the food wrappers even on the high chairs and bibs. And let’s not forget the PlayPlaces, Happy Meals and collectable toys. “Limited time” toy series are an excellent way of getting kids to keep coming back within a short period of time in order to collect the entire “valuable” set of toys.

But can’t parents just say no?

Advertisers rely on something they call “Pester Power”. It’s an aggressively studied, honed and carefully used tactic to get kids to nag their parents into purchasing something for them.

It takes a lot for parents to keep saying no over and over and over and over again – especially when it’s been a long, hectic week and everyone is hungry, cranky and in no mood to cook. Advertisers know this well. They have gone so far as to classify “Pester Power” according to identified stress factors and conditions like income, marital status, guilt and other factors that make parents more vulnerable to pestering. And then they use them to develop and target their marketing.

You Deserve a Break Today

Whaddya think? Should Ronald join Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man in the Former Insidious Advertising Mascots Retirement Villa?

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49 responses to “Retiring Ronald

  1. Oh, I don’t know. I think it’s so easy to try to blame others for what we do to ourselves. Kids have become overweight for a lot more reasons than fast food. There are video games that keep them indoors sitting on their butts for hours at a time. There are parents who over-schedule their families so much that they don’t have time to sit down to a nice, home-cooked, nutritionally-balanced meal. And so on.

  2. Skye is right that the reasons for childhood obesity are many. Like the tobacco companies though, MacDonalds, Burger King etc are in the business of making money by swamping kids with continual, all pervasive advertising and everything that goes with it.
    Yes parents should be able to say no, but no parent in the world wants to say no to their child the same number of times each day that the food industry says yes to them.
    A generation ago the exact same arguments were being used by tobacco to explain away their attempts to sell a deadly debilitating product to the nation.
    By the way at the beginning of this I thought you would be writing about that paragon of free enterprise Ronald Reagan who was of course a schill for tobacco for years.

  3. *sigh*

    More government and special interest group involvement in our lives.

    If I choose to go to McDonald’s, I’ve made that choice. If I decide to not go, that’s my choice as well.

    I have enough will power to say NO to my kids for as long as it takes for them to stop asking.

  4. I agree with Skye that there are a ton of reasons why kids are so overweight now, and I think a very, very small portion of that can be attributed to Ronald McDonald. More encouragement to exercise would be good and more home cooked meals would be another big help. When I drive by McDonald’s in the evening, the drive-through lane is packed with family cars. Not all of those people are going there because their kid has been nagging them all day, they are going because it was a long day at work and they don’t feel like cooking. You can’t blame Ronald for that kind of decision making by parents.

    However, I did see a nutrition study that showed how greatly kids are influenced by cartoon characters. If they put a sticker with a cartoon character on a rock, kids would pick that as the item they would rather eat over a piece of fruit. Yes, a rock looked more tasty because Sponge Bob was on it! Yikes. (wish I had a link to this but I can’t find it now)

  5. If that’s the case Kimberly, perhaps they should start re-thinking how they market fruit and other nutritious foods. Replace the code stickers they already have on fruits with ones that have cartoon characters. Could it be that easy?

  6. @Skye Yes it could be that easy if there was a great deal of money to be made selling fruit and veggies. Instead there is a huge profit to be made selling soda pop and french fries and so that is what the nice men who run american business bring to the table.
    They’d sell their wives or children if they could find a way to profit from that.

  7. Sure… but,

    Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man disappeared because cigarette advertising was banned.

    Whatever the merits, I think we’re a long way from banning advertising for fast food.

  8. Oh, this type of thing gets me SO mad!

    So typical. Our gutless society doesn’t want to accept any responsibility for their own actions, so the bleeding-heart PC crowd looks to blame someone else…this time it’s big bad Ronald McDonald.

    Mom and Dad, wrap your head around this: if your kids are fat and want to eat junk food all the time, it’s YOUR fault. Not some corporate ass-clown.

    You’re the ones who pay for the groceries. You’re the ones with the car keys and the ATM card. You’re the ones who are supposed to teach your kids the right values regarding excercise and eating properly.

    And I don’t buy that excuse of it’s difficult to say no to the Golden Arches.

    Because kids constantly ask for things, over and over again, and will have tantrums and hate you if you say no.

    They want to stay up late. They want expensive toys. They want to go to a sleep-over, or dirt-bikes and air-rifles. Later, they might want to look at porn on the internet, or go on the pill, and go to a drinking party and borrow your car to drive home.

    Will that be Ronald’s fault too?

    (Probably). Or some other scape-goat will be found.

  9. Personally I think it should be illegal to advertise to children in any way shape or form. I think it is immoral. I think ANY advertising directed at children is by its very nature deceptive misleading and outright lying. It should be banned.

  10. When do we start blaming Sony & Electronic Arts & Nintendo etc for creating video games that make people stay inside? When do we start blaming Ford for inventing the car and making people walk less? When do we start blaming Loblaws for creating a huge grocery store and stopping us from growing our own food?

    You can “blame” almost anyone for anything. It still comes down to choices we make as a society.

  11. “Mom and Dad, wrap your head around this: if your kids are fat and want to eat junk food all the time, it’s YOUR fault. Not some corporate ass-clown.”

    Well said, Dave.

    As as a Dad, I DO limit the amount of crappy food that my kids eat because it is MY responsibility!
    Sigh. For another example of the nanny state mentality, look no further than Toronto’s current push to nuke sugary drinks from concessions at municipal arenas and facilities by 2014.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/editorials/another-soft-drink-ban-pop-go-these-weasels/article1578867/

    Regulating booze – I can see that cuz overly drunk folks can hurt other folks and themselves.

    Regulating smokes – I can see that cuz second hand smoke can hurt other folks.

    But Gatorade? Really?

  12. the whole sticker thing is amazing. edie doesn’t like oranges. i bought some oranges the other day that were “disney” oranges (pictures of nemo of the box) and guess who now likes oranges????
    i find with my kids it’s the ritual of dining somewhere other than home that is exciting. they get just as stoked for tim hortons as they do for mcdonalds, so i do try and steer them towards timmie’s for a bagel with cream cheese when we are on the road. oh, i guess they get a donut too, so the plan isn’t perfect.

  13. “If your kids want to eat junk food it is your fault”

    Really? Really?

    I think you can say that if: Your kids are not exposed to advertising via television, videos, dvds, internet or print media,, and you homeschool or use a private school with strong anti advertising to children values.

    My children have never begged me for junk food…they still talk with wonder about the cotton candy they got at the Kentville literacy walk two years ago, about the candy apple they got at the Maritime Fall Fair last year. the slushie that my 17 yr old’s girlfriend got them after a 5 km hike in this heat wave.

    But were they not living in such a protective environment as my home…it would not be so easy.

    Once your children reach the point where they have spending money of their own and the leeway to go out and spend it they’re going to be confronted with all that advertising, and peers, and the addictive nature of these high fat, high sugar, high sodium foods. They serve some of it in school lunches!

    Gatorade is a complete sham. There is no need for any child to have their water bolstered with sugar and sodium unless they are sick and have all their fluids being expelled at both ends. NOTHING they do in their day, no matter how strenuous, requires additives to water for proper hydration.

    Because of advertising children recognize corporate logos before they recognize enough letters in the alphabet to spell their own names, it is the first literacy in our culture. This is not a place where you can blame parents and call laws preventing advertising to children (offering toys to entice children to want to eat junk “food” for instance) the creation of a “nanny state”.

    The corporation is fast becoming the state and we NEED to resist it….or we’re going to live on WALL-E’s planet Earth.

    I’m considered a counter culture kook though, not your average well meaning loving parent. It takes a huge amount of effort to stand in resistance to the corporation’s efforts to control my children. Honestly, with kids ranging in age from 17 to 2.5, I could not do it if we continued to live in a city centre. I’m able to because I live in a small community, in a small, poor province.

  14. I agree with Friar – well said. It is tough not to get sucked in by advertising…I’ve been duped especially when it comes to greenwashing. We have to give kids credit though. If we explain a bit about advertising/marketing they can make better decisions. My 6 yr old is catching on…. ie. the box of cereal with the leprechan is calling me over, let’s read what’s inside. My 8 year old saved a long time for a crappy toy advertised on TV…cool commercial. It broke 5 minutes after opening. Now she looks at the commercial and knows she fell for the advertising. Let McD’s have the scary clown. What’s next – banning The Pillsbury Dough boy?

  15. Good Lord. If Big Bad Fast Food is the worst thing we have to worry about, I really dont’ think there is an issue.

    Imagine if we were parents in the Third World? We’d have to worry about our kids being shot, or starving, or dying of malaria, or stepping on a land-mine.

    Billions of people somehow cope with that…every day.

    Yet here we are in North America. Parents are in a kerfuffle, about how difficult it is to make their kids EAT right. And we want to ban a CLOWN.

    Wah.

    Geez. No wonder the rest of the planet hates us.

  16. This can either be really complicated, or really simple. It is up to us as people (note, I didn’t call us “consumers”, that’s the advertiser’s word for us) – we can change ourselves.

    I have four children. Yes, they want to eat McDonalds. They get to go once in a while, and it won’t kill them, because I’d say 95 out of 100 meals they eat are home cooked, by me.

    But, I do limit their access to TV that bombards them with the advertising, just as I don’t let them listen to radio stations that play gangsta rap 24/7.

    That’s called good parenting.

  17. Corporate culture and advertising that uses creepy psychological WARFARE to get us consuming more and more and more are a blight on the planet.

    Something they get caught on and can’t sell to us anymore because it’s dangerous still gets sold – they ship it to developing nations and advertise it as a wonderful western product regardless of the havoc it will play there (NESTLE kills babies in the developing world by convincing parents to feed formula instead of breastfeeding which offers protection from infectious disease – never mind the fact they can’t afford it and don’t have access to clean water to mix it up with).

    This isn’t just about fast food, its about the fact that corporations do not have the inherent right to do and say whatever they want. The corporation is not a person. It should not have the same rights as the individual. There need to be checks and balances because the corporation is not even merely amoral, the corporation has NOTHING invested in making this world we live in a better place, all they care about is profit and profit most easily comes via promoting mass consumerism, which bis killing our planet.

    Advertising the western way of life is our biggest export to the developing world – and that, that is why they hate us…and want to be us.

  18. Ronald doesn’t lead millions of people to their salty, fatty, deaths.

    THEY do, themselves.

    Is that such a hard concept for us to grasp?

  19. @mudmama:
    “This isn’t just about fast food, its about the fact that corporations do not have the inherent right to do and say whatever they want.”
    You are correct to say that corporations do do have this inherent right. But nor does a government.
    At some point and on some issues, it is up to the individual (and Moms and Dads in the context of this post) to be allowed the choice of whether or not to let the kids eat at MacDo’s or buy a pop from an arena in Toronto.
    Where does the government regulation stop?

  20. The real tragedy here is that McDonalds takes something that was once food, and turns it into McDonalds!

    I mean, think about it – beef, chicken, fish, eggs, veggies, fruit, bread – yes, *evil* bread, XUP heh heh – it’s food. Then it gets transmogrified… now, I admit to liking the taste of a Big Mac (!) but I know my “poppa burger” at home is better for me.

    Hmm. Maybe I should try to make my own “sekrit soss” from my homemade mayo.

  21. Even if he retired and left that pear-shaped purple one as mascot, it might be more of a fairness in advertizing warning.

    scouting by helicopters? wild.

    they can leverage their success into an economy of scale skewing which food is produced. will a mascot change do anything, even symbolically, against the empire? maybe. taking down a figurehead can topple more than an icon.

  22. @Brett

    When I worked at McD’s (29 years ago!) we had a barbecue/picnic once. We had a case of frozen quater pounders, and cooked them on an outdoor grill. And put on our own condiments.

    It was TOTALLY different. The burgers were actually quite good. Not at ALL what you’d get in the restaurant.

    I think it’s because we didn’t squish them onto a hot metal grill, and lock in all the grease. And we didn’t douse them with salt.

    Like you said…the raw food isn’t that bad…it’s the way they cook it.

  23. Skye – Well, we need to blame somebody or it’s no fun. Go on. Pick someone to blame.

    Dr. Monkey – You got it, Brother Monkey.

    Dave1949 – I think Ronald Reagan is dead or something. But ya, people have no idea how hard advertisers work to get you buy their stuff. Most of us are just under the illusion that we’re making choices about what we buy.

    Ken – You may be an extraordinarily wise, wary and strong person. The majority, however, are not able to resist the lure of clever advertisers.

    Kimberly – I don’t even think it’s just kids that are that easily influenced by advertising. That’s the problem. People are being brainwashed into thinking that McDonald’s is a good choice at the end of a long day. Even the drive-thru convenience takes a lot of the decision-making away from us. We’re naturally lazy – that’s our cartoon character. If we had a choice between eating a rock from a drive=thru or a piece of fruit we had to get out of the car for (find parking), search the aisles, stand in line at the check-out..get back in the car??? No contest. Let’s eat rocks.

    Mike – I think the mascots disappeared before the advertising ban was in effect, no?

    Friar – In some ways I agree with you, since I don’t have a problem sticking to my guns if there’s something I don’t think is good for the kid, but she’s also never been naggy and I don’t have 4 of them and I know a thing or two about nutrition and I don’t live at my wit’s end all the time and have my life so overbooked that I have no time to cook. Unfortunately, I’m a minority, I think.

    Mudmama – There are people who are trying to get advertising to children under a certain age banned. How will they ever know what they want for Christmas??lol

    Ken – I already blame cars for most of our problems. But that’s just me.

    Trashy – I think this is easy for us to say because most of us have the smarts to say no to crap and keep our kids away from it, but there is a huge majority of people who do not have the nutritional/parenting/life skills to steer clear of pitfalls like this – obesity is a big problem with lower income people, for instance. Do we have no responsibility for them when we have allowed them to be bombarded by advertising that leads them to believe it’s okay (and great fun) to eat fast food? Because it’s cheap and easy and cool?

    Meanie – Are the oranges injected with Disney-loving drugs that will make kids love other Disney stuff, I wonder? Kids are suckered in so easily by stuff like that and it shouldn’t surprise us that a lot of grown-ups are too.

    Mudmama – Well said.

    MM – See my response to Trashy. YOU are able to educate your children against getting suckered in – not everyone is.

    Brett – Again, like I said to others, it’s good that there are wise and strong parents out there who teach their kids to make good choices despite the advertising, but there are tons of other people out there who are at the mercy of advertisers because they don’t have the resources some of us do. I think this is more about protecting them.

    Pauline – Ya, that Burger King is so freaky though that kids aren’t all that attracted to him, so it’s okay. Right?

    Pearl – I think it’s a start. Then on to the toys and the PlayLand.

  24. @trashy:

    Banning advertising aimed at children does not stop parents from making any choices. It stops corporations from engaging in dishonest (by its very nature) advertising.

    I think municipalities that take this upon themselves and face monetary retribution (banning corporate vending machines from schools for instance often means losing extra hidden funding from those corporations in computer labs and art programs and library aqwuisitions) are to be commended.

    You want to drink pop while watching your kids play hockey, bring it yourself. You want to eat at Mc D’s you can do it without the clown or toys in the meals or a playground, or any advertisements – then you’ll actually be making a choice.

  25. @XUP,

    Sure, you are right – there are many people who are not able to make the right choices or educate their children.

    But, I’m not sure if banning or restricting the advertising is the way to go, though – because really, you’re only offering localized protection.

    What happens when the people from the “no McDonalds” country travel?

    It would be like saying, “well, all kinds of people don’t know how to swim – let’s close all the swimming pools and block access to the beaches!!!”

    Then you get a bunch of drowned Caribbean vacationers…

    We need to educate people. Yes, maybe it is too late to educate some of them, but I think it would be a more proactive solution than just coddling everybody.

    Just Say No To Nanny States 🙂

  26. Brett – First of all there are no “no McDonald’s’ countries. Secondly, I don’t understand your analogy. How does not advertising fast food to children relate to non-swimmers drowning? How does advertising fast food to kids save the lives of tourists? I’m not asking for a nanny state. I’m just asking for a level playing field. How can we allow a corporation to shove this stuff down vulnerable people’s throats and say that’s okay, but get all uppity about the suggestion that someone should maybe step in and not allow the corporation to shove this stuff down vulnerable people’s throats?

  27. You can’t protect people from themselves, all of the time – that was the point of my analogy.

    I’ve never – NEVER – seen ads for “Arctic Wolf” beer – anywhere – and yet, the kids in my neighbourhood somehow obtain it, drink it, and leave the bottles in my front yard every Friday night.

    People will still eat garbage food if you don’t educate them. They will still eat it if you close every damned McDonalds on the planet.

    And if you don’t teach them to swim, they’ll still drown in the bathtub.

    If you somehow create a perfectly safe environment without teaching people and children the “right way” or whatever, you haven’t done them any favours.

    The government shoves bullshit down our throats every single day. I think I’d rather overthrow the government than McDonalds – if I don’t eat at McDonalds, they don’t audit me. If I don’t pay my taxes, however…

    For your amusement:

    Countries without McDonald’s locations

    Ask Yahoo! compared the United States Department of State’s list of independent states to a list of franchises on the McDonald’s website, and derived that the following countries don’t have McDonald’s locations.

    LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN (15 out of 35 countries)
    Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Bermuda, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago

    In addition there is a McDonald’s restaurant in the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, land leased from Cuba that hosts a US Naval facility.

    NORTH AMERICA (1 out of 23 countries)
    Greenland

    EUROPE (5 out of 46 countries)
    Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, and the Vatican City.

    THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (5 out of 19 countries)
    Iran, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, and Western Sahara.
    ASIA (18 out of 46 countries)
    Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma (also known as Myanmar), Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, North Korea, Palestine, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam

    SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA (46 out of 53 countries)
    Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe

    ANTARCTICA (15 claims, territories, and island territories)
    Adélie Land, Antártica, Argentine Antarctica, Australian Antarctic Territory, British Antarctic Territory, Queen Maud Land, Peter I Island, Ross Dependency, Brazilian Antarctica, Marie Byrd Land, New Swabia, Bouvet Island, French Southern Territories, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

    OCEANIA (11 out of 15 countries)
    Kiribati, Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu

    Regions, Territories, and Republics without McDonald’s locations

    CARIBBEAN
    Cayman Islands

    EUROPE (4 disputed regions, territories, and republics)
    Northern Cyprus, South Ossetia, Transnistria, and Kosovo

    ASIA (1 republic)
    Nagorno-Karabakh Republic

  28. “I think the mascots disappeared before the advertising ban was in effect, no?”

    Actually, no.

    Marlboro Man: “The image took hold with enough force that even through a ban on televised tobacco advertisements that began in 1971, the Marlboro Man survived unharmed. Instead of riding off into the sunset, the image turned up in print ads and on billboards all over the country.” — NPR (http://www.npr.org/programs/morning/features/patc/marlboroman/)

    Joe Camel never was a television advertising mascot. He actually was created for magazine advertisements, billboards, and other print media, appearing from 1987 to 1997, long after cigarette ads were banned from TV. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Camel)

    (In the US, cigarette ads were banned at the start of the year after I graduated from high school)

  29. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20100527/od_uk_nm/oukoe_uk_drinks_worst

    Ok all the MacDonalds defenders here are right. You need to stop chastising them for their menu choices because there is a new leader.
    Coldstone Creamery which has recently affiliated with our own beloved Timmies has set the bar higher than ever as the url shows.
    Here is the start of the story.

    “LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A milkshake containing 2,010 calories — equivalent to eating 68 strips of bacon or 30 chocolate chip cookies — has topped a list of the 20 worst drinks in America compiled by Men’s Health magazine.

    The Cold Stone PB&C milkshake, made with peanut butter, chocolate ice-cream and milk, contains 68 grams of saturated fat and 153 grams of sugar, according to nutritional details on the company’s website.

    “In terms of saturated fat, drinking this Cold Stone catastrophe is like slurping up 68 strips of bacon,” the magazine said.”
    Damn who’d have thought Mickey D would come off as a health food purveyor.

  30. What I get tired of, is the arrogant attitude, about how those of us who consider ourselves the “Illuminati” feel the need to save people from themselves, because they “don’t know better” like WE do.

    I mean, most of us commenting here have been bombarded with Rotten Ronnies’ advertising all our lives. But apparently it’s not a problem for us. We’re not addicted or influenced.

    How is that?

    Um…because we are reasonably intelligent adults, and can use common sense?

    But notice that we don’t give others the benefit of the doubt, that they’re reasonably smart like us.

    There’s this implied attitude, that the only reason McD’s is in business, is because the unwashed masses are not as enlightened as we are, and need to be EDUCATED by us.

    Typical Nanny-State thinking. Who made us so damned smart, and who put is in charge of others?

    Maybe like smokers, people eat at McD’s because they chose to.

  31. You are right, Friar, about the fact that many folks eat at McD’s because they choose to do so.

    There is another side to this, though, and I have noticed it in my travels to various cities around the world.

    I have noticed that (especially where you have lower income areas) you will find McD’s and other fast food restaurants all over the place. Similarly you will find variety stores that are willing to sell you “convenience foods” that are really not that good for you.

    At the same time, it is hard to find a real grocery store that sells real food.

    Hell, my sister and her husband live in High Park (Toronto) and while it is really difficult to get to a grocery store without a car i.e. a 15 minute drive, it is super easy to nip down to the corner for a Rotten Ronnie Burger or a Triple Caramel Macchiato Artery Explosion at Harbucks.

    I know why that is, of course (real estate costs there mean that a grocery store cannot survive, but a fast food restaurant or coffee shop can) – but it still sucks.

    I saw the same thing in Auckland, actually. It was easier to find a restaurant than a grocery store (and since a high quality homemade burger at a restaurant there is 20 bucks, where do you think most folks will eat? McD’s, of course, where it is “only” 5 bucks.)

  32. Brett – Yes, thanks. I was sort of kidding when I said there was no country without a McDonald’s. They do get around. And yes, of course we should educate people about all sorts of stuff, but when they’re being counter “educated” by glitzy advertising it’s tough. We’ve finally managed to convince people to stop smoking with massive educational campaigns, but a big part of that was not allowing tobacco companies to advertise and forcing them to display those nasty photos on cigarette packages and hiding cigarettes in secure vaults behind the counter and not allowing kids to buy cigarettes and banning smoking from all sorts of places. Yes, some people are still smoking, but it’s certainly not as prevalent as it once was. The point being that the allure of stuff like junk food and cigarettes and the huge amount of advertising dollars and savvy that goes into convincing people to indulge requires equally strong measures to educate people on the dangers of junk food and/or smoking. Why don’t we allow drug dealers to stand around our school playgrounds selling crack cocaine? Surely parents can see to it that their kids don’t become druggies. Surely if we educate kids to say no to drugs they won’t buy them no matter how fun and cool they are, right?

    Mike – Ah ha. Interesting. Thanks

    Dave1949 – I heard this today, too. And people are buying it in droves – just like they lined up to buy that nasty KFC thing. People are kind of stupid.

    Friar – Well, not to sound all arrogant or anything, but ya, there are whole factions of the population who have not had the advantages we’ve had. Who aren’t as educated. Who don’t have access to the information we have. Who grew up in poverty. Who know nothing but poverty. Who don’t have the same concept of health and nutrition we have. Who really don’t know any better. Really. I know that’s hard to believe, but the majority of regular fast food patrons are not middle or upper class people. Just like the majority of smokers are not middle or upper class people. LA has banned McDonald’s from some of their poorest communities for that very reason. Because obesity and lifestyle related illnesses were way out of hand there. I know this makes no sense to a person who has grown up in relative privilege. I know you’re laughing at that, but you and me and probably all of the people we associate with on a daily basis really are of a privileged group compared to how a hell of a lot of people in this country and the US live. McDonald’s has not gotten rich from us. We’re not keeping PayDay Loan places afloat. We don’t rent-to-own our furniture and appliances from all those many, many rent-to-own joints. We’re not keeping tobacco companies in business. Because, yes, we are damn smart. We’re the people who develop the clever advertising that convinces the “masses” that eating at McDonald’s is a great idea and that convince the “masses’ that they have a right to own a wide-screen TV with no money down and no payments until 2025. Since we allow our vulnerable citizens to be bombarded with that onslaught of dangerous misinformation, I think we also have a responsibility to protect them. I used the example earlier of crack dealers in our school playgrounds. Would we allow that? Why not? Can’t parents make sure their kids don’t buy drugs from these people? Why do we need police to step in a get these dealers out of there? Why is that their responsibility? Why aren’t kids smart enough to know not to use drugs?

    Brett – I don’t think it’s even about real estate prices or accidents of geography. I think those places are deliberately located in those areas because that’s where the target markets are. Like I said before, McDonald’s is not getting rich off the Big Mac Friar might buy a couple of times a year. They’re getting rich off school kids coming in every day after school and/or at lunch and off lower income people choosing the place for their suppers because they can’t get to the grocery store, don’t have money for healthier food, etc., etc. etc.

  33. You want to hit McDonalds hard and get them out of those poorer neighbourhoods?

    Make it less profitable for them to be there.

    Tax them more, charge them higher costs to build a restaurant in the neighbourhood, charge them higher rents, etc etc.

    Problem is with doing that, some of those people that live in the neighbourhood might not have a job. Like McD’s or not, it does provide the opportunity for people who don’t have a lot of skills to have work on a regular basis. People of many ages.

    I’m sure we’ve all seen the stereotypical teenager working his first job there. I’ve also seen seniors working there too, along with 20/30/40-somethings.

    If you were to take a McD’s out of the neighbourhood, what might happen to the employment situation in that neighbourhood?

    Those would be facts I’d be interested in knowing.

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  35. Ken – I think the few people a McDonald’s hires in a neighbourhood doesn’t outweigh the damage it does. And I’m not even necessarily saying we need to ban the place altogether, just get them to stop using unfair advertising practices – in the same way we’ve curtailed tobacco advertisers. To send a strong message that this stuff is NOT good food and that you’re eating it at a serious risk to your health.

    Alison – Thanks. I’ll give it a look-see

    Kimberly – I know! It’s got to be the best job next to World Wisdom Keeper. Did you know there actually is such a person? How cool would that be on a resume?

  36. I guess the problem that I have with curtailing the advertising, XUP, is I’m not sure it’s as effective as we think it would be.

    Kids still smoke. A lot. I see it all the time at the high school across the street from where I work. Banning or reducing their advertising won’t be the solution to the problem, given our experience to date.

    In the end, I think we all agree that the best education is the one kids get at home when it comes to this stuff. We can’t, and shouldn’t, rely on the government or businesses to do the educating for us.

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  38. You know I think that all the yelling and screaming about big bad MacDonalds is annoying. IF you are so weak that you really think that Ronald is a stronger influence on your kids then you are then I really need to get legislation to start taking your kids away from you .
    If your child is screaming to get a Happy Meal and you don’t want to then maybe YOU NEED TO SHUT YOUR KID UP.
    I know families who have never taken their kids to a fast food joint.
    Hell I know a family who OWN SEVERAL fast food joints but don’t eat there because they can make better for less at home.
    So as my ‘murican friends have told me: Maybe y’all oughta quick yer bitchin’ an complainin’ an start being responsible fer yer own shit.

  39. Ken – I don’t think that curtailing advertising is going to make a huge difference all on its own – but it’s a start to a bigger campaign..much like how the smoking thing was handled.

    Lebowski – I’ve responded to that point of view a few times already in these comments, so you can read what I said if you feel like it. Or not.

  40. I have a friend that goes to McDonald’s and buys the toys, then takes them somewhere else to eat. My husband and I are going to try that with the grandkids the next time we have them.