CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- One of the groups that led the ultimately successful campaign to banish Joe Camel from advertising now has a new target: Ronald McDonald.
"It's time that Ronald McDonald joined Joe Camel in retirement," argues Corporate Accountability International on its "Retire Ronald" website. "These tired mascots should be spending their golden years relaxing and sharing tales of their bygone days spent targeting children with deadly products."
CAI is asking like-minded people to submit photos of them holding signs urging Ronald to retire as part of a "photo petition." The site also contains a 32-page downloadable booklet outlining the case against the clown.
CAI says it is attempting to rally public support in order to get McDonald's to "end all use of celebrities, cartoons, and branded and licensed characters that appeal to children; eliminate all gifts, toys, collectibles, games or other incentive items from kids meals; and remove all advertising and promotional materials from places children visit frequently including schools, playgrounds, recreation and community centers, and pediatric health care centers."
Getting McDonald's to give up marketing staples such as Happy Meals and to part ways with celebrity endorsers such as basketball star LeBron James and golfer Michelle Wie figures to be a heavy lift.
But CAI does have a track record. During the 1990s, when it was known as Infact, it led the charge to ban Joe Camel from RJ Reynolds' ads, and after President Bill Clinton and the American Medical Association followed suit, the tobacco mascot was permanently dispatched.
But Ronald isn't going down without a fight. In a statement to the press, McDonald's not only called the clown a "beloved brand ambassador," it pointed out that he does more than sell burgers. In fact, he's not exactly the center-piece of the fast-feeder's TV ad campaigns these days, instead relegated to shilling on the web as well as delivering messages to families about "safety, literacy, and the importance of physical activity." Oh, and one other thing. "He is the heart and soul of Ronald McDonald House Charities, which lends a helping hand to families in their time of need, particularly when families need to be near their critically-ill children in hospitals. In fact, 4 million children are helped every year around the world through the Ronald McDonald House Charities."