The Happy Meal Ranks Among the Most Successful—and Copied—Ideas

The idea was inspired by a child eating and reading at the breakfast table

If the annals of branding prove one maxim over and over, it’s this: The best ideas often hit when you least expect. Case in point: the kitchen of a Kansas City, Mo., adman named Bob Bernstein. It was sometime in 1975. His agency, Bernstein-Rein, was sitting on a prestigious regional account for McDonald’s, which had given him a problem to think about. The restaurants didn’t have much appeal for children and, making matters worse, competitor Burger Chef was scooping up a lot of that traffic by giving away free toys. Bernstein had already been mulling over the idea of a special kids’ meal, but the idea hadn’t really gelled.

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This story first appeared in the Dec. 9, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.