OAK BROOK: "We are not the brand that you describe," McDonald's chief executive declared as he replied to shareholders criticising the company's marketing tactics, including allegations it targeted children, ethnic minorities and was contributing to an obesity epidemic.
"We serve a lot of foods and veggies at McDonald's and are trying to sell even more," Don Thompson told a nine-year old during an annual shareholder's meeting conference call, who said it wasn't fair that big companies tried to make kids eat food that wasn't good for them by using toys and cartoon characters.
"Globally we follow guidelines on how we responsibly communicate with children," he told another questioner who accused the corporation of undermining parents.
"We are not unjustly marketing 'to kids'", he said. "Ronald [McDonald] is not a bad guy. He is about fun. He is a clown. And so I would ask you ought to let your kids have some fun too."
He rejected a claim that McDonald's was marketing in schools and said, in response to a suggestion the brand was using its presence in hospitals "to create a false sense of health", that of the company's 14,000 outlets in the US, only 25 were in hospitals and the company had a great relationship with them.
He also pointed to 100 "Ronald Rooms" in hospitals, where the company was "trying to take care of holistic family needs".
Thompson brought up his own background to refute the charge that McDonald's was "aggressively targeting children of colour" with the use of African-American sports stars in ads and "inappropriate stereotypes from hip hop culture".
"We do not, have not, will not .. try to target people of colour," he protested and went on to state that "the epidemic of obesity particularly relevant to my neighbourhood … is not about McDonald's".
Throughout the exchanges Thompson strove to emphasise the quality and freshness of McDonald's food. And he pointed out that the company had 1.8m employees, many of them parents who took their children to eat at McDonald's restaurants.
"If any of us believe we would do damage to our own children, we wouldn't work for McDonald's," he said. "I feel very safe and very confident it is high quality food".
Data sourced from Seeking Alpha; additional content by Warc staff