When parent Susan Pagan discovered the ad, she contacted the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC). "My daughter worked so hard to get good grades this term, and now she believes she is entitled to a prize from McDonald's," said Pagan. "And now I'm the 'bad guy' because I had to explain that our family does not eat at fast-food chains. I'm outraged that McDonald's is trying to exploit my daughter's achievement." At once, the CCFC created a campaign to have the advertisement removed.
The ad came wrapped around elementary students' report cards. Students, ranging from kindergarten up to fifth grade, would receive a free Happy Meal for earning A's and B's. A smiling Ronald McDonald led the campaign. However, after the uproar, the yellow and red clown was banished from all report cards. McDonald's agreed to discontinue the ad, reprint the envelopes at no cost to the school, and acknowledge the outcry because "we believe the focus should be on the importance of a good education."
A good education, not a free box of fries and nuggets.
The CCFC and nearly two-thousand parents reigned victorious. As the CCFC's director, Dr. Susan Linn, put it, "This is a good day for parents and children in Seminole County and [for] anyone who believes that corporations should not prey on children in schools. We are pleased that McDonald's is listening to parents all over the country who believe that report cards should not be commercialized."
However, this isn't McDonald's first attempt at directly marketing their products to young kids. According to an article by former fast-food service employee Pratap Chatterjee, "In the 1990s there was a hue and cry by groups like UNPLUG! of Oakland, California, after McDonald's and other companies provided 'sponsored educational materials' on subjects like nutrition to teachers to supplement or take the place of approved curriculum in the U.S. The company was also protested for sponsoring McTeacher's Night in southern California, which involved teachers working at local McDonald's restaurants to raise funds for schools by selling burgers to their own students."
But with another loss tucked under its belt, McDonald's may finally realize that its marketing ploys aimed at children won't get by without a fight. Especially when parents are involved. After all, "One parent can make a difference," said Linn. "And when that parent was joined by other parents and CCFC members, one of our nation's largest corporations was forced to back down. What we accomplished in Seminole County should put all marketers on notice: advertising has no place in our nation's schools."