McDonald's China puts hoardings at school doors

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BEIJING - U.S. fast food giant McDonald's has launched a new campaign to foster young customers from school kids with big "public welfare" advertising hoardings at the entrance of several primary schools in Beijing.

The move has drawn criticism from the local media, which suggest McDonald's so-called "public welfare" ads are more commercial than public welfare. According to the Beijing-based China Business Times, pupils and parents interviewed by the newspaper say that the most eye-catching content of the boards is the big golden "M".

Public welfare messages such as that warning pupils to pay attention to safety when crossing the road can only be read when close to the boards. In Beijing, McDonald's has opened nearly 30 outlets, each of which does good business all the year round. Children are its biggest consumers.

Officials from the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, which oversees the ad industry, say that such ads can only be regarded as a combination of public welfare and commercial advertising. Chinese experts say, however, that public welfare ads should emphasize the content of public welfare instead of the commercial content.

But McDonald's managing personnel in Beijing say that the attention-grabbing "M" does not diminish the effect of its public welfare message because when pupils recognize it, they go close to see what the boards say and see the warnings to be careful when crossing roads or not to drop litter.

Since there is no law governing public welfare advertisements in China yet, McDonald's has not violated any rule. As a result, experts are calling for a speedily drafted law to meet the new conditions in the country.

Copyright April 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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