McDonald's mascot is getting a sportier assortment of togs to coincide with the company's new "Come Out and Play" ad campaign. Under fire along with other fast-food restaurants for contributing to childhood obesity, McDonald's has supplemented its burgers and fries with apple slices, grilled chicken salads and a new emphasis on physical activity. The new Ronald McDonald ads, which encourage children and parents to balance food with staying active, are part of that effort. So are "Go Active With Ronald McDonald" shows that start touring the U.S. in September.
Ronald's yellow jumpsuit and striped undershirt remain the staples of his wardrobe, but their silhouettes have been streamlined to reflect the active lifestyle he is meant to convey. Depending on the sport he is playing in commercials debuting Friday, Ronald will dress in basketball, football, soccer or tennis attire.
"This is another way that Ronald is becoming even more relevant," said McDonald's spokeswoman Lisa Howard.
For special occasions, like live appearances at Ronald McDonald House Charities galas, he will wear a yellow tuxedo.
Howard could not confirm whether the wardrobe change is permanent, but his big red shoes will not change a bit.
As noted by Jackie Woodward, McDonald's vice president of global marketing, “Ronald has an opportunity to be a powerful force for good and to be a part of our overall comprehensive commitment to talking with our customers about balanced lifestyles.”
Critics, however, call McDonald's new campaign a PR ploy.
“I don't think these commercials are going to have any effect whatsoever in getting kids or adults to exercise,” says Michael Jacobson with the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “McDonald's should be serving healthier foods.”
In less controversial news from the fast-food giant, Mike Roberts, McDonald's president and chief operating officer, announced that Denis Hennequin, executive vice president, McDonald's Europe, will become president of McDonald's Europe effective July 1, 2005.
Hennequin will succeed Russ Smyth, currently president, McDonald's Europe, who has decided to leave McDonald's after 21 years with the company.
"Russ is a great leader and a great person," said Roberts. "I regret that he's moving on, but I know he is doing what's right for him, his family and the direction he wants to take his career, so I respect and support his personal decision.
" Hennequin is a talented executive who forged a brilliant track record in France during his eight years as managing director there," Roberts added. "His innovative ideas and strategic thinking have already contributed to the sales traction we are beginning to see in Europe throughout the past year-and-a-half he has served as executive vice president, McDonald's Europe. We remain extremely confident in our people and in the strategies in place in Europe."
Roberts also announced that Glen Steeves will become chief operating officer, McDonald's Europe, reporting to Hennequin. Presently, Steeves is senior vice president, McDonald's Europe, with responsibility for McDonald's restaurants in Northern Europe.
"Glen is another strong McDonald's executive who began his career working in our restaurants. He is a seasoned veteran with deep restaurant operations expertise and an enormous passion for our customers and our brand in Europe. Together, he and Denis will continue to build on the momentum of the Plan to Win in Europe," said Roberts.
Hennequin has been with McDonald's for 21 years. In 1984, after graduating from law school, he began his McDonald's career as an assistant restaurant manager in Paris. In 1996, Hennequin became president of McDonald's France.
Under his leadership, France became one of the most successful, innovative and influential markets for McDonald's, the company notes.
On January 1, 2004, he was promoted to executive vice president for McDonald's Europe. Hennequin and Steeves will be based in London.
Steeves has been with McDonald's for 32 years. He began his McDonald's career in the restaurants, starting as a crew member in Canada in 1973.
After 16 years in various field and operations positions, he relocated to Russia as a member of the team that opened McDonald's first restaurant in Moscow. During his time in Russia, he also helped build a thriving business there as managing director.
In 2000, he was promoted to international relationship partner and, over the course of the next four years, assumed responsibility for the business in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Scandinavia, the U.K. and Germany.