OAK BROOK, IL—Bowing to outcry from consumers and parents groups, the McDonald's Corporation announced Monday that it is discontinuing its new advertising mascot, "The Hammurderer," a mischievous, homicidal imp who kills McDonaldland characters and takes their sandwiches.
Developed by Chicago advertising agency DDB Needham, the Hammurderer made his debut two months ago and has since appeared in a series of Saturday-morning television commercials, as well as on Happy Meal bags and activity placemats. All appearances by and references to the violent, ill-tempered prison escapee will be dropped.
"Over the years, McDonald's has successfully introduced a number of new characters whose defining characteristic is a certain measure of comical, criminal intent," said Andrew Perlich, McDonald's vice-president of promotions. "Such shady characters as The Hamburglar, The Goblins, and the bloodthirsty pirate Captain Crook have all fit nicely into the McDonald's advertising universe. We had every reason to believe that the Hammurderer, with his long rap sheet of burger-related crimes and his signature cry of 'Stabble Stabble Stabble,' would take his place in this proud lineage of McDonaldland mischief-makers."
The Hammurderer's Jan. 11 debut ad—in which he seizes and devours the McDonald's Happy Meal Guys, oblivious to their frantic screams—earned poor marks from parents and child-development experts, who feared the spot might send the message to children that killing is acceptable. Several weeks later, more controversy erupted over the promotional coloring book "Shivved In The McRibs," in which the Hammurderer decapitates Mayor McCheese and eats his head. Responding to widespread public outrage, McDonald's executives defended the coloring book as "not nearly as violent or socially irresponsible as it has been made out to be, given that the Mayor's head is, in fact, a giant and conceivably edible cheeseburger."
But the uproar over the latest commercial, in which Birdie The Early Bird is garroted by the Hammurderer and her body tossed in a Dumpster, was vociferous enough to prompt the fast-food giant to pull the plug.
"We are sensitive to the concerns of parents and will immediately begin phasing out this character," Perlich said. "Whether we will remove him from commercials without explanation or write him out of the spots with a bloody police standoff, we have yet to decide. But we're confident the Hammurderer will be off the national radar by April."
Hammurderer toys and promotional items, which include dolls, T-shirts, ski masks, and spiked bats, have been recalled and are expected to become prized collectibles.
This is not the first time a McDonald's character has stirred controversy for its violent nature. In 1982, the company introduced "Shakes McJunkie," an emaciated addict who robbed characters of their possessions, which he then sold to buy McDonald's shakes. He was later reworked as "The Machead," a homeless, wild-eyed Big Mac addict who turned to panhandling and gay prostitution as a means of supporting his severe burger habit.
The Hammurderer is quickly becoming regarded as the worst-received advertising mascot since Kool-Aid's 1989 discontinuation of "The Grapist," a huge purple monster who sodomizes thirsty children.