Although he helped put a face on the fast food company, Ronnie McDonald's days could be numbered.

His floppy shoes, painted-on smile, and flaming-red hair may be a harder sell to today’s kids who are trading in their dolls and trucks for manicures and mobile games at ever-younger ages. He also seems out of step with McDonald’s Corp.’s efforts to appeal to adults. The 48-year-old spokesclown has fallen flat in new ads this year, according to Ace Metrix, a group that tracks TV advertising.

Is it the passage of time or changing tastes and lifestyles?

...the government is getting strict on how food is marketed to children. That has both marginalized Ronald as more of a mascot than a product pitchman and landed him in the middle of the bigger debate about food makers’ responsibilities in stemming the rise in childhood obesity.

McDonald’s says it is proud of the food it offers and that Ronald teaches children to be active, but critics say it’s time to hang up the yellow jumper.

Even a recent marketing study has turned up negatives.

Jack McKee, vice president of sales and marketing at Ace Metrix, said new Ronald McDonald commercials have failed to entice test audiences. His company surveyed 500 people about each commercial, he said.

“It’s really remarkable how often I saw the word ‘creepy’ ’’ in the survey comments, McKee said.

Pressure could make Ronald grimace -