Does McDonalds use the toys in its happy meals as bait to tempt kids into choosing nutritionally poor Happy Meals?
Class Action Lawsuit Against McDonald’s
Monet Parham, a mother of two from Sacramento, CA, thinks so, and on Wednesday, December 15, she filed a class action lawsuit, with the help of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), designed to stop McDonald’s use of toys to market directly to young children. The suit was filed in California Superior Court in San Francisco.
“I am concerned about the health of my children and feel that McDonald’s should be a very limited part of their diet and their childhood experience,” Parham said. “But as other busy, working moms and dads know, we have to say ‘ no’ to our young children so many times, and McDonald’s makes that so much harder to do. I object to the fact that McDonald’s is getting into my kids’ heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat.”
San Francisco Ban On Happy Meals
This suit comes on the heels of a decision on November 2 by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to ban toy giveaways in meals that don’t meet nutritional guidelines or that don’t contain any fruits or vegetables – in other words, all McDonald’s Happy Meals as they are presently constituted.
But is Parham’s claim that the company is deliberately targeting young children accurate?
Go After Kids!
“Go after kids,” is how Roy Bergold, who headed McDonald’s advertising for 29 years as chief creative officer, described the company’s strategy in an article in QSR magazine. “Ray Kroc said that if you had $1 to spend on marketing, spend it on kids. Why? Because they can’t get to your restaurant by themselves and they eat a lot.” Bergold also acknowledged in a separate QSR column that “companies have found that kids are a lot more tempted by the toys than the food.” McDonald’s “gets into the parents’ wallets via the kids’ minds,” according to an online presentation by Martin Lindstrom, who advises McDonald’s on branding and “neuromarketing.”
And Joe Johnston, who was on the advertising-agency team that developed the McDonald’s Fun Meal, which pre-dated the Happy Meal, bluntly explained the centrality of the toy to the meal’s marketing: “Yes, even then, we knew that we needed the toy to make it work.”
Fast-food companies—with McDonald’s by far in the lead—spent over $520 million in 2006 on advertising and toys to market children’s meals. Toy premiums made up almost three-quarters of those expenses, totaling over $350 million.
That seems pretty conclusive evidence that McDonald’s ranks their profit above all else.
Check out the latest McDonald’s video and see what you think:
Creative Commons - Jim, the Photographer