September 13th, 2013
Thinking Beyond the Clown
By Anna Lappe
When Bozo the Clown went off air in 1963, no one would have guessed the small-town television character would soon become the most famous clown in the world. But McDonald’s turned Bozo into Ronald McDonald, and today he’s recognized by more than 90 percent of school children in the United States.
For decades now, the company has used the creepy clown to target kids, but it’s not the company’s only trick. Ronald is just one of the many ways that McDonald’s targets children, from product partnerships with Pixar to its HappyMeal.com website. (I love that its tagline says, “eating fruit & dairy is fun”—even though most of the fresh produce you see on the website is actually nowhere to be found on a McDonald’s menu. Ah, details).