mcdonald’s and their ill-thought out report card ad

There is a lot of hoopla around the reported McDonald’s ads on report card envelopes at a school district in Florida. At least one parent is, predictably, upset. As reported in Promo magazine, Susan Pagan, the mother of a nine-year-old who received a report card, said was “shocked and outraged” when she saw the ad on the envelope.


Pagan, apparently, “[tries] to feed my kids well, especially with all the media hype about childhood obesity. If someone wants to send me something, fine. But let’s keep direct marketing out of the hands of our kids.”

Even without all of the media hype about childhood obesity, my parents tried to feed me well. And for the most part they did, though I do bear the scars of being forced to eat cooked carrots and my Mom’s lemon chicken.

In the current climate, and knowing the McDonald’s strives to be a “responsible” company, advertising as closely to schools as McDonald’s did is a definite no-no.

Though…the Biz takes the stance that advertising does not compel anyone to do anything. There was much more, in terms of volume and lack of restrictions on content, advertising targeted at kids when I was a little tyke and even when my parents were young. And somehow, we made it out unscathed and un-obese. My parents (and theirs) may have had to put up with more “no, we’re stopping at McDonald’s” and “no, you can’t have that toy” than they wanted…but what parent doesn’t?

In moderation, a McDonald’s Happy Meal is a nice little treat. As is the Taco Bell I am going to go and get for lunch today. Eaten every day, either one will make you a fat ass. But, at this point, if you don’t know that…well, let’s be honest, at this point, EVERYONE knows that you can’t eat fast food every day and be healthy.

But there are lots of things that you can’t do every day and be healthy (and, as a corollary, can do occasionally while still remaining the picture of fitness). Advertising those treats (fast food, ice cream, coffee, etc and so on) should not be disallowed just because some people can’t control themselves.

The advertising isn’t forcing them in over-indulge.

If parents want to make school advertising-fee, it’s their prerogative. And it could be very fairly argued that targeting children, especially with a promised reward without parental consent, crosses the line. Limiting advertising to kids is a perfectly defensible position to hold though it is important to recognize that McDonald’s food isn’t, in and of itself, a bad thing. It is a bad thing only in excess and, as parents, it is important to ensure that kids need do not consume it in excess.

Don’t blame advertising for your lack of willpower to moderate your tastes and impulses.

If all so-called unhealthy foods stop advertising, obesity is not going to go away.


3 responses to “mcdonald’s and their ill-thought out report card ad

  1. i call bullshit. no one’s talking about moderation or obesity every day. we’re talking about a corporation directing their advertising and marketing at children who can’t understand what that communication is. You say

    “well, let’s be honest, at this point, EVERYONE knows that you can’t eat fast food every day and be healthy.”

    Kids can’t understand that. Kids would eat that shit everyday if you let them. You try walking down the cereal aisle with a young child who just sees shrek, dora & all the pretty colors.

  2. Mike: You bring up a good point. Kids cannot understand that to eat fast food every day is unhealthy. Or, at least, they cannot understand it and have the self-control to moderate their choices.

    But that is my point – they shouldn’t be making these choices. Their parents should. And their parents know what is healthy and what is not, what is an acceptable treat and what is not and what they feel comfortable letting their kids do and what they do not.

    As I mentioned, in this climate, McDonald’s should have nixed the report card advertising. But parents can’t abdicate their responsibility for their children – and that includes teaching them things like moderation and not falling for every bit of marketing.

    It’s a fine line.

    I get your point and agree with it – targeting kids too closely is a no-no. That said, nothing in this world is always and in every situation good for you and people can’t just always blame advertising for their lack of self-control (or their unwillingness to take the time to teach their children self-control).

    Do you think I am drawing too fine a line here? Would you totally ban advertising for products primarily consumed by kids? Would love your thoughts.

  3. hey biz, lost track of this one for a bit, sorry. I think you’re going a little too far on this one. I’m all for personal responsibility and moderation & crap. But, the main point of contention is that McD’s was talking directly to kids first. Back in my day, you got your report card & carried it home to your parents. So, if the kid is seeing it first, then the parent is already blind-sided and playing catch-up. If McD’s wants to ‘reward’ good grades, then figure out some way to talk to parents and not the kids. We’re talking K-5 here, those kids are pure emotion and instinct. “See shiny thing, want shiny thing.”

    Kids see a character that appeals to them (remember the infamous Joe Camel? Or Jew-Hater Bob – look how that worked on Hitler!) and they want whatever that character is selling.

    I don’t think it’s a matter of banning advertising for child-targeted products. I think it’s a matter of doing it in a responsible way. Certainly not in schools.

    Full disclosure, my agency does work for McDonalds. I just shot some McNugget tv yesterday. We couldn’t use Ronald because then it would have said “hey kids, the happy clown is telling you to eat our food!”

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