Fast food for thought

Paul Iaquaniello, our creative director at Space, recently reviewed the ‘free books with Happy Meals’ promotional partnership between McDonald’s and Harper Collins for Promotional Marketing. We thought we’d share it here too.

One in every three children in the UK – almost four million – don’t own a book and a quarter of children in the UK are obese by the time they start primary school. These are figures recently published by the National Literacy Trust and NHS and I’m sure you’ll agree, both are shocking and rather sad.

This was my initial dilemma when I was first asked to write about McDonald’s latest initiative. Is it right that a fast food chain should champion such a great cause and get children reading?

McDonald’s is to hand out 9 million copies of former children’s laureate, Morpurgo’s Mudpuddle farm books, aimed at younger readers, along with its Happy Meals. The campaign, which is expected to temporarily make the company the single biggest retailer of children’s books, launched in the New Year and is supported by both the National Literacy Trust and TV presenter, Jeff Brazier.

There is no doubt the size and scale of McDonald’s has the ability to reach a high number of children when ‘eight out of ten families visit McDonalds’ according to the fast food chain, but does that make it OK?

Much has been written about McDonalds’ transformation over recent years with the introduction of organic milk, calorie counts on food packaging, olive green interiors and fruit with its Happy Meals which all makes it a very distant relative to the fast food burger chain I once knew as a kid. And I think that is where my hang up may be.

My view on this promotion was initially clouded by a perception I had of a restaurant that has since long gone. It wasn’t too long ago, that you wouldn’t have had a healthy choice at McDonalds. The truth is that you now can. And it’s that ability to choose which brings me back to the statistics I started this piece with.


Parents can choose to dine out with their children at McDonald’s and can choose to eat a balanced meal there. They can also choose to read a book to their children for 10 minutes every day. The fact of the matter is not enough parents are doing so. This promotion will give children easy access to literature and McDonald’s should also be acknowledged for retaining the playfulness usually associated with its Happy Meals having included a finger puppet with every book. This will go a long way to helping parents bring the stories to life.

Substituting the Happy Meal toy with a great Michael Morpurgo book can only be a good thing. For some children it will be the first book they own. Let’s just hope the parents choose for it not to be their last.



So, what do you think?

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