McDonald’s Is Now Making Happy Meal Boxes That Turn Into Virtual Reality Headsets

Happy Goggles debut in Sweden in trial run

McDonald's Sweden is launching a promotion that invites kids to turn Happy Meal boxes into virtual-reality viewers. Dubbed Happy Goggles, some 3,500 of them will be made available at 14 restaurants over the weekends of March 5 and March 12. The price is about $4.10. 

The push is tied to the Swedish "Sportlov" recreational holiday, during which many families go skiing. With this in mind, McD's created a ski-themed VR game, "Slope Stars," for use with the oggles (though they work just as well with any mobile VR experience). The game can also be played in a less immersive fashion without them. 

To turn the iconic red boxes into Happy Goggles, just tear along some perforated lines and fold, inserting the VR lenses (included) and a smartphone (bring your own). The video below shows you how:

It's kind of like Google Cardboard—with fries.

DDB Stockholm developed the strategy, design and packaging, while North Kingdom Stockholm created the game; Prime is handling publicity. 

The program recalls a recent effort by Pizza Hut to turn its pizza box into movie projectors. VR, though, is another step up. The fast-food chain believes VR provides "a really exciting opportunity to connect families in digital times," Jeff Jackett, marketing director at McDonald's Sweden, tells AdFreak. "Parents can learn more about their children's knowledge and experience of the digital world. And purposeful gaming can also be a great joint activity that helps families interact on equal terms." 

Hackett adds that "this is the first trial run globally" for the Goggles, so there's a chance the program will be expanded if it proves popular. 

Although VR has gained traction in marketing campaigns, it seems especially on target for McDonald's. The chain has essentially been trying to fashion its own alternate "world" for decades. Characters like Ronald, Hamburglar and Grimace were analog-era nods in that direction, followed more recently by house-size Happy Meal boxes (Airbnb, take note), the much-derided anthropomorphic "Happy" mascot (which made us grimace), and even a Big Mac-inspired lifestyle and clothing line (also in Sweden).

McDonald's is not the first company to take advantage of VR to market to kids. Late last year, Mattel decided to rejuvenate the View-Master brand for a new generation. But perhaps anticipating blowback, the fast-food giant says child psychologists Karl Eder and Fadi Lahdo "have evaluated Happy Goggles and also presented a recommendation on how they should be used," concluding that "the gaming can be a good joint activity that makes it easier to hang out."

Such assertions likely won't make Happy Goggles palatable for the chain's critics. As with every kid-related McDonald's promotion, the tricked-out Happy Meal boxes will surely have some detractors seeing red. 

 Interested in invention?
Check out Adweek's Project Isaac Awards here.

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.