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Parent Advocacy Group Takes on McDonald’s


18 August 2015 at 11:23 am
Lina Caneva
A national children’s health advocacy group, The Parents’ Jury, has submitted a complaint to the Advertising Standards Bureau calling for an end to a new book promotion by fast food giant, McDonald’s.

Lina Caneva | 18 August 2015 at 11:23 am


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Parent Advocacy Group Takes on McDonald’s
18 August 2015 at 11:23 am

A national children’s health advocacy group, The Parents’ Jury, has submitted a complaint to the Advertising Standards Bureau calling for an end to a new book promotion by fast food giant, McDonald’s.

The group, which is funded by Cancer Council Australia, Diabetes Victoria, VicHealth, YMCA Australia and the Bluearth Foundation, says it wants McDonalds to stop its latest book giveaway promotion, in particular the digital element which is centred on an app called Happy Readers.

The Happy Readers promotion gives children free books with the purchase of a McDonald’s Happy Meal. There are 10 hard copy books and 16 digital readers to collect in the series.

“The app is preloaded with three free titles, but to access other titles in the series, users have to input a unique code only obtained through purchasing a McDonald’s Happy Meal,” Campaigns Manager for The Parents’ Jury, Alice Pryor said.

“This app is clearly designed to appeal to, and be easily operated by, young children. What worries parents is the fact that the in-app bookstore and the Happy Meal box clearly display the titles that the child has yet to collect.

“To collect all 10 books and 16 digital readers, children would need to consume 23 Happy Meals in an eight-week period. That’s a lot of fast food in just two months and is certainly not recommended for healthy eating.

“It also concerns us that the in-app bookstore features the Happy Meal box character and although the Happy Meal highlighted in the app is a ‘healthier choice’, unfortunately, when a Happy Meal is purchased in store, the default food option is not usually the ‘healthier choice’.”

Pryor said McDonald’s had previously come under fire from health groups for its marketing of Happy Meals through toy giveaways, often linked to popular children’s movies.

“Promoting Happy Meals through digital media is a worrying development for parents as this is an area with little or no mandatory regulation,” she said.    

“McDonald’s is a fast food restaurant franchise, whose business is selling food not toys or books. Promotions which include a free toy or book with a meal entice children to request food and beverage products from McDonald’s and are not responsible marketing.”

Pryor said The Parents Jury decided to take its complaint straight to the Advertising Standards Bureau because McDonald’s had not responded to its concerns in the past.

“Because it it such a short term campaign (ending in September) we decided it was significant enough to take our complaint directly to the Advertising Standards Bureau,” she said.

A statement from McDonald’s said: “To say parents are likely to take their kids to McDonald’s 23 times in eight weeks is just ridiculous. In fact we know that parents take their children to eat at McDonald’s only one – two times a month.”  

“Like all of our Happy Meal toys, the books are also available for purchase for $2 for parents who would like to buy them independently of a Happy Meal. We advertise Happy Meals with apple slices and low fat milk in compliance with nutrition criteria set by external dietitians.”


Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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