Back in my fare burgh, health and family reporter Nancy Churnin has a lovely question posed to her readers but it should get the ears perked of us flacks: “Changes coming to the Happy Meal. PR stunt or the real thing?”
(SPOILER ALERT: It’s McDonalds. There is no real thing there.)
According to the story, McDonald’s latest CSR campaign is going to be a partnership with Reading Is Fundamental. This is a valiant cause, and as the honored spouse to an elementary school teacher, one that requires more attention — but through a Happy Meal?
Are we sacrificing one cause for another? Fight illiteracy to ignore childhood obesity?! The goal is to get 20 million books to kids by giving out paperback books instead of toys for two weeks in November. Two weeks. That’s it, and probably just enough for the home of the Golden Arches.
However, there’s a rub to this abrasive campaign:
The print books will be shamelessly self-promotional and feature McDonald’s Happy Meal characters learning to eat right by eating guess what? Food you can find at McDonald’s. RIF will help distribute 100,000 Happy Meal Books to kids who don’t have easy access to books, but is the goal really to promote a love of reading or to sell McDonald’s?
Let me get this right: We have the second-largest fast-food conglomerate in the world pimping itself and its brand under the guise of an award-winning publisher’s ardent cause? Granted, the clowns at McDonald’s (see what I did there) have the Ronald McDonald House — also very admirable of causes — but why not focus on its own charity instead of making its number one item better by offering a free commercial color-by-numbers book that is printed by someone else?
That’s not PR. That’s not CSR. That barely marketing. It’s an issue of ethics. A big, deep-fried, artery-hardening, fat issue of ethics.