April 7th, 2011

McDonald's Puts Ronald Back to Work

The Wall Street Journal

McDonald’s Corp. is putting its longtime mascot Ronald McDonald back on television and bolstering his Web presence, resetting its sights on kids after a recent push to target adults with specialty coffee drinks and smoothies.

However, the new commercials starring the red-headed clown, which began airing Wednesday, may come at an inopportune time as New York City council members attack McDonald’s Happy Meals as a “predatory marketing technique” with a bill that would ban free toys from fast-food children’s meals that exceed calorie and nutrition targets.

Ronald has been McDonald’s mascot for the past 48 years. However, there had been recent speculation that the character had been retired as the fast-food giant touted its McCafe specialty drinks, fruit smoothies and more-upscale remodeled stores with wireless Internet access—exhibiting a more adult-focused advertising strategy.

Ronald’s new ads were first reported by USA Today. They encourage kids to go to HappyMeal.com—with parents’ permission—to play games and create photos with Ronald.

“With the return of Ronald, McDonald’s is reverting back to advertising directly to kids, rather than advertising to kids through their parents,” said branding strategist Adam Hanft, chief executive of marketing firm Hanft Projects.

The idea to instill demand directly in children, who will then pressure their parents, clearly works, Mr. Hanft said. “But the problem with creating these little armies of kids is that you turn the parents against the brand,” he added.

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704101604576247121216914168.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

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