But somehow we sympathize.
Child obesity is undeniably a major public-health problem. Undeniably, McDonald's and its fellow crap purveyors are part of the problem. But this is undeniable, too: nobody has to go to McDonald's.
The Happy Meal targets kids, sure, but it isn't the rubella vaccine. It isn't mandatory, or habit-forming or misrepresented as some sort of health food. And it's marketed as a treat, not a staple.
Is it McDonald's fault that Americans are slobs? No, it is McDonald's extraordinary good fortune. Likewise the disintegration of the traditional family, in which Mom stayed home and labored lovingly over the evening meal. Now Mom chases around desperately just to get the kids picked up at daycare and wrestling practice on time, and Dad won't prepare a decent meal because he still thinks it's 1959.
Thus has the famous selling proposition that catapulted McDonald's to ubiquity 30 years ago-"You deserve a break today"-mutated from occasional reward to practical necessity. Or, anyway, the easy option. The kids are clamoring and nobody has the strength-or the good sense or the moral fiber-to tell the little brats, "No."
"No," would go a long way to solving the juvenile obesity problem. "No, Junior, no potato chips. No, no ice cream. No, you may not pack Coke in your lunchbox. NOW EAT YOUR BROCCOLI OR I'M GOING TO SHUT OFF YOUR INTERNET PORN!"
But not only is this Fat America, it's also Abdicate Personal Responsibility America, so obviously it all must be somebody else's fault. My 12-year-old is a lard butt, so let's litigate, legislate and regulate. Lo and behold, McDonald finds itself in federal court trying to explain why "super size it" was a self-interested suggestion and not a direct order.
So that's the background for this campaign titled "Free to Be You and Me"...
Wait ... that's not right. It's called: "It's what I eat and what I do," in which a cavalcade of Olympic athletes and (we swear to God) "balanced, active-lifestyles advocate Ronald McDonald" encourage young people to be more physically active and eat leafy vegetables.
There is no language to the effect of "French fries=death." On the contrary, the message seems to be to get off your sorry ass and exercise so you can eat all the McDonald's you want. Hey, look at the trim-and-fit animated food robots in the spots: they're made of menu items.
OK, so the advertising isn't exactly confessional. But this isn't Philip-Morris redressing decades of evil. It's a burger joint navigating a public-policy and PR nightmare. So, yeah, it's lame (except for one absolutely delightful spot about a little boy who has taken the smart path of drinking eight glasses of water a day, and is locked out of the bathroom). But we can't think of what we'd have done much differently.
Review 2.5 stars
Agency: Leo Burnett Co.