Friday, January 18, 2008

McDonald's ads hit new low

McDonald's, the clever folks behind the living billboard in Chicago that spelled out "Fresh Salads" with 16 different kinds of live, growing lettuce, has launched a different kind of advertising campaign.

This one can be seen on children's report cards.

If I couldn't see the image (left), I wouldn't believe it. But last week, students in Seminole County, Florida apparently received their report cards in envelopes adorned with Ronald McDonald promising a free Happy Meal to students with good grades, behavior or attendance, according to The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a consumer advocacy group that works to protect children from the harmful effects of marketing.

The advertisement appears on report card envelopes for students in kindergarten through 5th grade. The envelopes are used to transport report cards to and from home throughout the school year, says the CCFC.

McDonald's picked up the $1,600 for printing costs associated with producing the report cards for the 27,000 students according to Adweek. But promoting Happy Meals flies in the face of McDonald's promise to only advertise its healthier options to children younger than 12 and to stop advertising all food or beverage products in elementary schools.

Yes, Happy Meals now might include milk and apple slices, but kids really want the cheeseburgers, French fries, and soft drinks. "Happy Meals featured on the report card can contain as many 710 calories, 28 grams of fat, or 35 grams of sugar," according to the CCFC.

I'm not sure who has hit a new low: McDonald's or the school district, which has said it will continue to run the McDonald's ads on report cards for the rest of the year and take the ONE COMPLAINT by a parent into consideration for next year.

Just one complaint? What are these parents thinking? It's fine if you want to reward your kid's good grades with fast food. This is America, after all. But whether it's Pizza Hut or McDonald's, advertisements for junk food have no place on a report card or its envelope in the same way that fast food has no business inside a school cafeteria.

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