Dated Ronald McDonald faces the chop

LONDON - Ronald McDonald, one of the most famous marketing icons of the past 50 years, is facing the chop, as fast food giant McDonald's rethinks its image.

According to reports, executives at the fast food-giant are putting together plans that would see the yellow and red clown, who has been a symbol of the McDonald's burger chain since 1963, play a much-reduced role in the company's future.

While claiming in company literature that Ronald McDonald is second only to Santa Claus in terms of recognition, McDonald's marketers are concerned that the chain's target audience has moved on and that Ronald is now no longer appealing to a new generation of children.

McDonald's has recently been canvassing advertising executives about Ronald's future as part of a makeover of the chain. One executive, quoted in The Sunday Times, said: "He reminds me of Mickey Mouse -- iconic but dated. The kids have moved on."

McDonald's makeover plans come at a time when the fast food giant is coming under sustained pressure around the world. A TV advertisement in July, in which a young boy played his separated parents off each other, drew more than 100 complaints to the ITC.

A string of obesity law suits in the US have promoted it to opt for lower fat cooking oils and a recent promotion in Norway for the McAfrika burger caused a furore at a time when many countries in Africa face famine. The company has since dropped plans to roll out the burger across Norway.

The burger giant is also the focus of two class-action suits in the US claiming that its food causes obesity.

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