VIEWPOINT;RONALD VS. DAVE;AD GAMES

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One thing that can be said about a clown's pancake makeup is that it is certain to cover up the blemishes.

But does it? McDonald's Corp. is in a dither about its sales to the adult market. And, by using its kids icon Ronald for one of the most pre-hyped product introductions in years, No. 1 is blatantly admitting it has become a restaurant for children-and wants to change.

It's obvious to those in the marketing world that the new Arch Deluxe sandwiches for adults are meant to answer Wendy's International and its "biggie" products so skillfully pitched by a man holding an AARP card-and he's made that sell to young adults as well as, well .*.*. others.

What's surprising is McDonald's use of Ronald to make its pitch. We've seen some loud outfits on the golf course over the years, but a clown suit? How does this fit with adults chowing down at a Mickey D's? How many golfers skip past the 19th hole to share refreshments at the local fast-food store?

Ronald belongs to the kids. It's like handing a tennis racquet to Peter Pan in the hopes of selling more peanut butter. Think about it: Hamburglar seems more appropriate.

The good news is that if this job doesn't work out for Ronald, there's always the Senior PGA Tour.

Olympic officials have another problem on their hands. It's athletic shoe marketers-some of them Olympics sponsors-blundering into rules on how and when Olympic athletes can be used in advertising.

To the evident surprise of some marketers, Olympic organizers have a blackout rule that says no marketer may use the name or image of an Olympic athlete during the Games without written permission beforehand. Even then, the marketing communication must not refer to that athlete's participation in the Games. The consequences of violating the rule are potentially very serious for the athlete involved: possible suspension from competition.

Fila USA recently discovered that a new campaign featuring basketball star Grant Hill, long jumper Mike Powell and volleyball star Kent Steffes puts those Olympic competitors at risk of Olympic officials' wrath. The problem? The ads were to appear during the Games and, while making no overt reference to the Olympics, carried the tagline "Have fun in Atlanta." We thought only the Food & Drug Administration's notorious ad regulators could be so picky.

Olympic officials, we imagine, have an eloquent justification for this blackout rule, such as protecting athletes from "exploitation" by marketers. And the Games do belong to the Olympic organization, which can set the rules as it pleases; we respect that.

But we'd bet most sports fans, surrounded by waves of marketing and promotion before, during and after the Games, would be even more surprised than marketers that this rule exists. It's a sure thing many would view it a rank injustice if an athlete were actually penalized, in this day and age, for being in an ad that had to be held back during the Games.

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