CEO Insists Ronald McDonald's Hip, "Does Not Advertise Unhealthy Food To Children

This week, a corporate watchdog urged McDonald's to retire Ronald McDonald and stop marketing to children. Today McDonald's Chief Executive Officer Jim Skinner defended the 48-year-old mascot, saying he's still just as hip and relevant ... as David Spade

Yesterday an anti-Ronald letter signed by more than 600 health-care professionals and organizations was published in six newspapers, the Wall Street Journal reports. At the company's annual meeting, Skinner said the clown "is going nowhere." He added, "Ronald McDonald is an ambassador for McDonald's, and he is an ambassador for good. He does not advertise unhealthy food to children."

But analysts say it may be time to retire Ronald, even though the chain claims he connects with families "on relevant topics such as anti-bullying and being active." Fast food mascots are passé and Ronald's popularity has slipped over the years. According to The Marketing Arm's consumer awareness index of 2,800 celebrities, the clown is recognized by more than 99% of American consumers, yet he only ranks 2,109 in likability. That's on par with David Space and NFL quarterback Vince Young.

The Wall Street Journal consulted with another expert in her field:

Mollie Kerr, an 11-year-old sixth grader from a suburb of New York City, has strong opinions on Ronald McDonald. For starters, she says, he lacks authenticity.

"It's very fake, the whole, like, all his commercials, where he's jumping up and down, where he's always happy. You know that no one's always happy. It's silly," she says. "We have, like problems, we have earthquakes and tornadoes, we have money problems and financial problems. But in Ronald McDonald World, we have no problems, it's just happy all the time."

She also finds fault with his lack of style. "His whole image is all 1970s and he's all peppy and his clothes are all baggy," she added. "We wear skinny jeans these days, even the boys."

Way harsh, Tai. Shit, that movie came out five years before Mollie was born. I've already lost touch with the youth! Well, one lady feels my pain: Cheryl Berman, a former ad executive who worked on Ronald's image for 20 years. She'd like to inform the child who's turned her back on the clown that he's still totally rad. She says:

"There's much less of the clowning around these days. He's not just trying to make kids laugh. That was the original goal, but now he's positioned to be someone that kids can look up to ... I think he's every bit as relevant today. Kids will always relate to characters."

Yeah, Ronald is definitely a hero to the kiddies. That's why so many children aspire to wear clown makeup and hang out with a dude named Grimace when they grow up.

No Pink Slip for Ronald McDonald [WSJ]