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MNB yesterday took note of a Chicago Tribune report that McDonald’s plans to release new ad campaign that will feature a message about either nutrition or the importance of exercise in every ad.

I commented, in part:

I must say that I amused by some of the critics of the new ad campaign, who seem to be saying that it is not a good idea because by stressing a health and nutrition message, McDonald’s should not be sending any messages to kids under 12, and that the subject doesn’t really matter. One critic says that McDonald’s is just “exploiting children's emotional vulnerability through cartoons and animals,” and that the subject doesn’t really matter.

Well, I don’t know about that.

It does sort of seem like McDonald’s cannot win.

If I had little kids, I’d avoid McDonald’s as much as possible on principle. But it would be nice to know that at those times when I needed a convenient fast food alternative, its Happy Meals are not quite as bad as they used to be, and that the ads may have had the healthier foods a little bit more palatable to kids.

It is just hard for me to get too upset about McDonald’s stance on this. They’re shifting with the tides, and that’s supposed to be a good thing.

One MNB user responded:

At the end of the day Mc Donald’s can change the look of the restaurants to look more upscale, add fresh to the menu ( as they did with salads etc and didn’t work all that well), add specialty coffee, ok that worked. But if you look at the customer base, it’s been kids, kids that come in and play on the playground, play with the toys and eat the happy meals. The parents are only there out of guilt and its quick and easy not fresh and health. Stand in line and see how many parents order  fruit vs. fries, milk vs. soda… not many, and when they ask their kids, guess their answer.  Mc Donald’s like many retailers have done a great job of attracting and keep a certain customer base all these years. In Mc Donald’s case it is kids. To prove this, this is why Walmart wanted them in the stores, as the percentage of kids that eat at a Mc Donald’s weekly is extremely high and they wanted in on that visit. Mc Donald’s is no Chipotle and never will be.

From another MNB user:

I understand why McDonalds feels pressured to appear to be more health conscious but these new Happy Meals are a joke.

On a recent road trip, we stopped at a McDonalds because we wanted fast and convenient food. The apples went untouched by my 6 year old and the fries were inadequate. I felt cheated. Maybe we’re the exception, but my wife and I ensure our children eat right and get plenty of exercise. We keep a cooler in the car on our trips and our kids get plenty of fruits and vegetables. This, and the fact that the apples looked inedible, is why we didn’t make our son eat the apples. If we thought our kids had to have a healthier meal, we wouldn’t have chosen McDonalds.

I guess from a business perspective, McDonalds sales were probably positively impacted by our stop. We did order extra fries to make up for the deficiency. However, it’s going to hurt them in the long run because we will plan fewer stops there. It’s a tough position for McDonalds and, I guess the groups that have targeted them score a win. However, I don’t believe this moves them toward their stated objective of reducing childhood obesity, that can only be achieved with responsible parenting. It’s just hurting a reputable company.

And, from yet another reader:

I was actually kind of annoyed at the new Happy Meal because the offering of apples was smaller and there’s not a “no fries” option.  Thinking back on it, I guess I could have doubled up on the apples and asked for no fries but my daughter loved the caramel sauce and that’s not an option it seems.  And while I’m sure the sauce is simply HFCS, I’d rather her eat that than a bunch of fries.  I’m happy for the change but do wish they’d give the 11% that was opting for apples and no fries, our old choice.

As for those still complaining about McDonalds, it’s not McDonald’s responsibility to ensure my children eat healthy. It is mine.  And if people are going to fast food restaurants for every meal, it probably doesn’t matter what McD’s offers, obesity will continue to increase.

KC's View: