“Hey Kids, This is Advertising.”

Earlier this week, Corporate Accountability International (CAI) and health professionals wrote an open letter to McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner and took out newspaper ads, asking the company to “retire [their] marketing promotions for food high in salt, fat, sugar, and calories to children, whatever form they take – from Ronald McDonald to toy giveaways.”

CAI partially blames Ronald McDonald for the continuing rise of childhood obesity levels. “Even when parents resist the ‘nag effect’ cultivated by McDonald’s to access the $40 – 50 billion in annual purchases that children under 12 control,” the letter says, “advertising creates brand loyalties that persist into adulthood.” The letter argues that McDonald’s uses Ronald to “appeal to kids in environments that informed parents and health professionals can’t constantly monitor – from schools to libraries to the internet.”

But McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner says, “Ronald McDonald is going nowhere.”

Mr. Skinner added that Ronald McDonald is an “ambassador for good,” referencing the clown’s support for the Ronald McDonald House charity, which provides housing for families of sick children away from home.

Many argue that Ronald McDonald is too much of an icon to retire; he’s recognized by most Americans. According to the Davie Brown Index, compiled by Omnicom Group’s Marketing Arm, Ronald is recognizable by 99% of U.S. consumers. And he’s fourth in awareness in the company’s 2,800 celebrity database.

Others argue that McDonald’s should stomp this on-going controversy, and just get rid of the mascot once and for all. After all…in terms of likeability, Ronald is ranked 2,109 out of 2,800 celebrities in the Davie Brown Index, among consumers ages 13 and up.

So what do you think? Should Ronald McDonald stick around, or is it time for a new face?

Sources: Advertising Age, Media Bistro