October 1963: Ronald McDonald

In 1960 the McDonald's franchise in Washington, D.C., decided to sponsor a local children's television program called "Bozo's Circus." Bozo was played by Willard Scott, who later gained fame as a television meteorologist and write. Scott subsequently was asked to play Bozo at the grand opening of another McDonald's outlet in the area. Sales in Washington grew by a whopping 30 percent per year during the next four years. In 1963 the television station decided to drop "Bozo's Circus," which lagged in the ratings. The local McDonald's franchise chose to produce their own television commercials starring another clown. Previously McDonald's franchises had not independently developed television commercials. The owners of this establishment wondered what to name the clown, and an advertising agency proposed "Archie McDonald," which offered an allusion to McDonald's golden arches symbol. But there was a sportscaster in the Washington area named Arch McDonald, so another name had to be found. Using a simple rhyme, Willard Scott came up with the name Ronald McDonald. Scott played Ronald McDonald in the first television commercials, which were broadcast in October 1963.
-- From "The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink" (2007)
* Video of ad (from www.vintageTVcommercials.com): @
* Excerpt from "Chew On This: Everything You Don't Want To Know About Fast Food" (Eric Schlossler and Charles Wilson, 2006): @
* "The Sign of the Burger: McDonald's and the Culture of Power" (Joe L. Kincheloe, 2002): @ 
* McDonald's website: @

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