For Assessment: Case study – McDonalds

McDonald’s is the leading global foodservice retailer, with more than 33000 restaurants around the world.  Nowadays there is hardly anything more universal than McDonald’s and Coke, especially in the western and westernised world. The McDonald’s logo is one of the most recognisable symbols in the whole world.

In order to realise what impact McDonalds has, just think of the fact that McDonald’s’ daily customer traffic (62M) is larger than the population of Great Britain. This and more mind blowing facts about this huge company can be found here:

McDonald’s adopts different strategies to attract customers of different age groups, but still the main target remains to be children. So in order to attract them, McDonald’s use a key tool: the Happy Meals, which seem to fascinate children due to the toys included in the menu. In addition to this, they have a tie up with The Walt Disney Company for the Disney characters included in the menu, in order to make sure that they offer the kids a wide range of toy options. Moreover, McDonald’s provides the children with a special facility, unique for food venues and fast-food restaurants: a playground. This strategy is aimed at making McDonald’s a pleasant and fun environment for both kids and parents. Even the exterior of every restaurant is also strategically designed using bright colours to invite in the customer, especially kids who can easily be influenced by these aspects. So not only that the children like it, it is a chance for the parents to spend some “quality time” with their kids. Another aspect of their marketing strategy is the fact that every McDonald’s restaurant provides Wi–Fi facilities, a detail that adds to the attractive qualities and is aimed at teenage customers.

In addition to this, what is representative for this chain is their clown mascot, Ronald McDonald, who is essential for creating the bond with children and entertaining them. They can even have private birthday parties in the facilities, again part of McDonald’s aim to induce happy memories in children’s minds, and to make them associate the McDonald’s brand and logo with happy moments.

McDonald’s’ impact on the population of the world is huge, with nearly 50% of U.S.A.’s population living within a 3 minute drive from a McDonald’s outlet. The food served at McDonald’s has raised concerns among health professionals and nutritionists since it can directly influence the occurence and the development of a number of serious diseases. The list includes obesity – especially among children, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and more severe ones such as diabetes and cancer – due to the unhealthy ingredients used to prepare the products.

“As health professionals engaged directly in the largest preventable health crisis facing this country, we ask that you stop marketing junk food to children,” health professionals wrote in a letter to McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner recently.

“The rates of sick children are staggering,” says the letter. “Health care costs and an overburdened health care system make treatment more difficult than ever. And we know that reducing junk food marketing can significantly improve the health of kids.”

The letter continues, “McDonald’s and industry front groups have refused to address the dangerous toll that fast food predatory marketing is taking on our kids.”

Furthermore, McDonald’s have incorporated a very effective way of advertising, by using charity as a pretext for infiltrating into the educational system. Is there a better way to lure kids than to indoctrinate them directly at school and earn their trust? They make organised trips to McDonald’s so that children can learn about nutritional health. What is worse is that even the educational system seems to be supportive towards it.

‘Staff at Hartridge High School, in Newport, and McDonald’s in the town centre have joined together to give good attenders free vouchers which they can exchange for a Big Mac, fries, and milk shake if they have not missed a day for three months.

Since the scheme was initiated in September the truancy rate has plummeted.’

We think the solution of this problem is to prohibit McDonald’s from giving away toys in their kids’ meals unless their food meets nutritional requirements. This measure was already taken by a law in San Francisco. “Our efforts are geared towards addressing childhood obesity epidemic,” said San Francisco City and County Supervisor Eric Mar, who proposed the ordinance.

In its defense, McDonald’s, in a statement to the Wall Street Journal, said, “We are committed to responsible advertising and take our communications to children very seriously. We understand the importance of children’s health and nutrition, and are committed to being part of the dialogue and solution. We serve high quality food, and our Happy Meals offer choice and variety in portions just for kids. Parents tell us they appreciate our Happy Meal choices.”

Other creative practitioners managed to raise the awareness of this problem, especially by mocking some characteristic symbols of McDonald’s:

After years and years of trying to convince the American population, the worldwide famous chef Jamie Oliver finally managed to make his point  with strong arguments and campaign that shocked the US. Through his US television he did a presentation that has completely changed the perspective of people when it comes to fast food and one particular succesful food chain, McDonalds. He accused this big chain of restaurants along with Taco Bell, Burger King fo using no called ‘pink slime’ as burger filler. The presentation was absolutely disgusting and its purpose was to raise awarness and I have to say it has definitely reached the target since people were horrified. The consequence of this victorius campaign by Jamie Oliver was that McDonalds had to remove these meat products supplied by BPI (Beef Products Inc). They say that their hand wasn’t forced by the TV chef however the timings is more than coincidence.

Here is what McDonalds had to say:

Todd Bacon, Senior Director of U.S. Quality Systems and Supply Chain with the fast food chain, said: ‘At McDonald’s food safety has been and will continue to be a top priority.

‘The decision to remove BPI products from the McDonald’s system was not related to any particular event but rather to support our effort to align our global beef raw material standards. ‘McDonald’s complies with all government requirements and food safety regulations.

‘Furthermore, we have our own food safety measures and standards in place throughout the entire supply chain to ensure that we serve safe, high quality food to every customer, every time they visit our restaurants.’

And finally here is the video: Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

After Jonathan posted his comment with the information we should also include I have started searching about films or documentaries that treat this topic. ‘Supersize me’ was one of them along with ‘Fast Food Nation’ so I wanted to see how huge was their impact, if they have made their point and what people thought about them. What did these films achieve? In an article last update on the 13th of January 2011, the author, Bobby Coles affirms:

‘These films have impacted the fast food industry in such a manner as to bring about more awareness of the health risks posed with a steady diet of fast food, which has resulted in some menu changes at some major fast food outlets.

 Fast Food Nation shows far more than one should see inside of an abattoir (slaughterhouse), but it does so in an attempt to make the audience take a second look into what their diet is consisting. Super Size Me gave the audience a glimpse into the repercussions of a fast food diet, and together these films have painted a negative picture of the fast food industry.

The impact on the fast food industry of these two films, however, has not been as harsh as had originally been hoped. At first, these films helped the public to come to the realization that fast food is unhealthy, but in the end, people still tend to eat at these establishments.

While both films were well done, and certainly presented fast food in an unsavoury light, the fast food industry is still thriving. Big corporations have a way of getting you to forgive them, and to return to their fold. If anything, the same restaurants are still being visited, but perhaps a different menu option is chosen.’

Now that the Olympics are close, McDonalds is going to open the biggest restaurant so far to meet the need of athletes and spectators since they affirm that one in five meals purchased during the games is going to be McDonalds.

‘A member of the Olympics team told the Daily Mail: ‘McDonald’s has been a supporter of the Olympic movement and sport in general for decades’.

McDonald’s has been a long-standing sponsor of the Olympic Games since 1968, when the company airlifted hamburgers to home-sick American athletes in Grenoble, France.

‘In our main restaurant at Olympic Park, every hour will be three times as busy as our current busiest outlet in the UK,’ said UK vice-president Steve Easterbrook

It is really frustrating that no matter how hard some people struggle to promote healthy lifestyle, fast food chains are always the last ones who say the last word. This probably due to their popularity among a significant number of the population. I think that even now when we are talking about sports and when its meant to be about healthy food, things are going in the right direction and they are opening a new, bigger than ever McDonalds to serve more unhealty food rather than promoting the healthy one whne such a huge crowd of people will be attending.

As media practitioners we can produce documentaries, films and interviews with health specialists and individuals that are directly influenced by this aspect, which will raise the awareness of the population about this growing problem if it is put in front of the right people. We can also produce educational films aimed at children about the food industry – either how burgers and fries are really made, or trying to educate them about healthy foods, working with local food producers, and farms, taking them to field trips to see real food.

Creative campaign: This photo suggests the idea that there are numerous secrets about the company that people don’t know about, aspets kept behind the curtain that are indeed disturbing.  The red room suggests the place where the secrets are kept and the photos on the walls some of the  ’thruts’ (the aggressive advertising that makes children eat the food even though they are not aware they are being manipulated-hypodermic needle)  people maybe aware of but they don’t seem to take them into consideration because McDonald’s has become so comman, natural. The ‘monster’ fries suggests the unhealthy food that can cause damage to our bodies if consumed frequently, Ronald of course to attract the kids and the child in the corner frightened because of the monster fries. We have to add a slogan for our campaign that we are still thinking about.

McDonalds torture room: 


About adinavlad

Optimist, friendly,'ll get to know me :)

Posted on January 22, 2012, in 260MC - Media Production in Context. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Well done team, you make some good points and a couple of interesting links. My thoughts: More detail about the impact positive and negative of McDs employment, environmental, health, how have they altered their menu. You don’t address how the company defend their position. You suggest a ban on free toys apart from healthy meals, how has this worked in San Francisco and which McD meals meet these standards. Is a Bigmac meal a treat that should be allowable once every couple of months, if it’s reducing truancy – and I’d like to see the proof – its a good thing. What about Olympic sponsorship? No mention of ‘Supersize Me’ any idea of the impact of this hit documentary? What’s a healthy alternative for a parent who wants to treat their children to a meal? Jamie Oliver tried to show teenagers the raw ingredients used by McDs was that effective?
    Is targeting this particular brand the most effective way of approaching the issue? And what precisely is the issue? At the moment your approach is ‘MacDonalds, they’re evil.’ a more mature efficient approach might be ‘We want a ban on marketing unhealthy food to children.’
    Keep it up. ps good use of images Adina

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