McDonald's stands up to the food police

In the face of withering criticism from the food police over McDonald's "unhealthy" kids meals and the mascot who sells them Jim Skinner, the company's CEO, has strongly endorsed keeping Ronald McDonald as the face of the fast food giant.

Wall Street Journal:

The 48-year-old, red-haired mascot has come under fire from health-care professionals and consumer groups who, in recent days, have asked the fast-food chain to retire Ronald McDonald. But McDonald's Chief Executive Officer Jim Skinner staunchly defended the clown at the company's annual meeting on Thursday, saying, "Ronald McDonald is going nowhere."

Shareholders seemed to agree, voting down a proposal to require the hamburger giant to tally the financial impact of defending its children's meals. Just 6% of shareholders voted in favor of the resolution.

"Ronald McDonald is an ambassador for McDonald's, and he is an ambassador for good," Mr. Skinner said. "He does not advertise unhealthy food to children."

Ambassadorship aside, some image consultants and consumers are beginning to question how relevant Ronald McDonald even is to kids anymore-and whether he has kept pace with McDonald's own reinvention.

If McDonald's is to retire the clown, it should be for the same reason that Mr. Whipple no longer squeezes Charmin, or Madge no longer soaks ladies' fingers in Palmolive dish washing liquid; the identity of the brand has moved past the iconic nature of the mascot. It may indeed come to that, and Ronald will ride off into the sunset along with other symbols of corporate America that have outlived their usefulness.

But standing up to the scolders and finger shakers in the food busybody business is a good sign that not all corporations can be cowed by shaming a piece of Americana like Ronald. Kudos to Mr. Skinner for defending his company against this rabble.