McDonald’s, Milk Board Team on Happy Meal Promo

The under-10 set may clamor for sodas with their burgers and fries. But if a new promotion is successful, they will get milk instead.

Within a week of promising to promote healthier eating, McDonald’s has partnered with the California Milk Processor Board to use its trademark “Got milk?” campaign, created by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco, to push milk instead of soft drinks with its Happy Meals.

The promotion is being rolled out as a three-month pilot project in Sacramento, Calif. The location was chosen because of its diverse population, the willingness of the area’s 153 owner-operators to try something new and because it has a good billboard market, said Shelly King, a representative with Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s.

“This alliance is extremely important for both ‘Got milk?’ and McDonald’s,” said Jeff Manning, executive director of CMPB. The dairy industry is working to convince consumers to drink milk outside their homes, he noted, while McDonald’s wants to raise the awareness of healthy beverage options.

As part of the alliance, a logo that incorporates the golden arches and “Got milk?” will be featured on billboards starting this week. A series of humorous radio spots that also breaks this week is scheduled to run through June. Goodby created both components.

The spots feature translations of children’s common complaints. In one, a little boy asks, “Can I have cookies for breakfast?” What he really means, the kid says: “I am testing my boundaries. Please define them.” The announcer continues, “If your child says …,” which is followed by a girl’s ear-splitting, “Nooooo!” Translation: “I am tired and hungry. Let’s go to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal and some milk.” The spots end with the “Got milk?” tagline.

Patrons will also see the “Got milk?” message inside the restaurants. Employees will wear buttons, and the phrase will appear on menu boards and tray liners.

If the promotion is successful, the “Got milk?” campaign may roll out statewide and possibly nationally, King said.

While milk has always been on the McDonald’s menu, this is the first effort to raise awareness of it. For McDonald’s, providing milk with Happy Meals is slightly more expensive than sodas, but that will not affect the price, King said.

The pilot program was termed “very good news” by Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based nutrition-advocacy group that has criticized fast-food chains.

“Typically Happy Meals are sold with soft drinks. McDonald’s probably sells more soft drinks than any other restaurant chain in the country, and kids drink far too much of them and don’t drink enough milk. So good for McDonald’s for doing this,” Jacobson said.

During an analysts’ call last week, Charlie Bell, McDonald’s president and COO, discussed efforts to make the menu healthier, including the addition of yogurt parfaits and salads. Bell said parents may soon be able to swap fruit for fries.

Next week, McDonald’s will begin advertising its new premium salads, which use Newman’s Own dressing and come in a bowl instead of a shake cup.