McDonald’s has been told to change its advertising to focus on the food and not its Happy Meal toys to ensure its ads don’t have the potential to enhance the appeal of its products to children.
The warning, from the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) — a self-regulatory division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus — came after investigated a McDonald’s TV ad from last year (watch it above.)
The ad opened with two Happy Meal-shaped animated characters playing around with a tube of yogurt. It then cut to a girl walking towards the box, saying “I’m so excited to find out what’s in here!” The meal — Chicken McNuggets, fries, and yogurt — wasn’t situated inside the box, it was sitting beside it. The ad then showed scenes of other children gleefully pulling “Teenie Beanie Baby Boo” toys out of the Happy Meal box and showing them off to the camera.
In its review, CARU ruled the ad’s primary focus was on the “premium” — the toys — and that children would have difficulty distinguishing between the product — the food — and that premium. It recommended McDonald’s “take care to assure future advertising directed to children that commercials focus on the advertised food product and not on the premium.”
In response to the investigation, McDonald’s said in a statement: “The ad at issue is no longer running. Although we believe that the ad primarily focuses the child’s attention on the product, McDonald’s respects the self-regulatory process and will take CARU’s comments into consideration when producing future ads.”
In some countries, including the UK, there is a ban on advertising foods high in fat, salt, and sugar to children. The UK’s media regulator Ofcom introduced the ban in 2008 in a bid to tackle growing childhood obesity levels.
In the US, however, advertising to children is self-regulated and monitored by the Better Business Bureau. The self-regulatory guidelines state that advertisers should not stimulate children’s unreasonable expectations about product quality or performance.
McDonald’s is currently battling to turnaround its performance in the US. Same-store-sales in the region declined 2.3% in April.
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