McDonald’s has partnered with a reading advocacy group to replace toys in happy meals with books for two weeks in November. Naturally, everyone is losing their minds.
McDonald’s, based in Oak Brook, Illinois, has pledged to provide more than 20 million books to families in the U.S., in part by giving 100,000 books to the literacy non-profit Reading is Fundamental, reports ABC News.
Additionally, McDonald’s will be offering books to Happy Meal purchasers in November between the 1st and the 14th, not coincidentally launching on National Family Literacy Day.
Though it seems like any effort to get kids to read would be universally embraced, there are actually some fairly powerful voices coming out against the plan. It’s no secret that McDonald’s is trying to improve its image as an obesity conglomerate by offering healthier foods, and some critics think that this is just a cheap way to earn public trust.
The biggest advocacy group protesting the Happy Meal plan is the left-leaning Corporate Accountability International. They say that McDonald’s is trying to earn parents’ trust and, presumably, their continued “contributions” by appealing to the kids and education.
In their own words, McDee’s is “trying to earn undeserved goodwill from the growing number of parents and health advocates who are calling on them to stop marketing to kids.”
Sara Deon, director for CAI’s “Value [the] Meal” campaign called it “a thinly-veiled promotion designed to get the brand in front of more kids and earn goodwill.”
“By associating the brand with a message of healthy eating, it’s tricking kids and parents into thinking that McDonald’s has their best interests in mind. This move is clearly a reaction to growing pressure from parents and health professionals around the impact its marketing is having on kids – driving an epidemic of diet-related disease. This is not the change parents and health professionals have been demanding.”
Of course, the campaign has its defenders.
“This might not be the best campaign ever, but those toys the kids usually get are worthless, and anything that gets books into kids’ hands is a good thing. Even if it’s in the car,” said Karie Dozer of KTAR. “RIF has the toughest job in the world, second only to the parents. Get off its back.”
A quick point, if you’ll allow me: It’s hard to parse what Corporate Accountability International actually wants here. CAI’s quest against predatory marketing towards children who don’t know any better is noble, but McDonald’s has conceded that they have a “weight” issue and have pledged to roll out a wider selection of healthy, low-cal options.
Hold their feet to the fire on that, and help them reform. The effort is there, McDonald’s isn’t waving the middle finger at CAI going “ha ha kids like french fries, come at be bro!” Don’t punish them for trying to do what you want them to do.
Anyway. What do you think of McDonald’s “books in Happy Meals” plan? Good idea, or bad?