McDonald's Pulls Ads From Florida Report Cards

Acknowledges Brouhaha Over Sponsorship; Will Still Pay School's Printing Costs

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- McDonald's Corp. has voluntarily pulled its sponsorship of report-card covers in Seminole County, Fla., public schools.
McDonald's Report Card
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This is the report-card jacket McDonald's had agereed to sponsor.


"This is a good day for parents and children in Seminole County and anyone who believes that corporations should not prey on children in schools," said Dr. Susan Linn, director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. "We are pleased that McDonald's is listening to parents all over the country who believe that report cards should not be commercialized."

Cover printing costs
The fast-food giant had agreed to sponsor the report-card jackets for the county's elementary schools to cover a printing fee of $1,600. There are 27,000 children in the school district.

On the jackets, McDonald's offered a free happy meal to any student with all A's and B's, two or fewer absences, or good behavior in a given academic quarter. Susan Pagan, an area parent, notified the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, and an all-out public-relations battle ensued by early December. According to the campaign, the school district received more than 2,000 calls of protest.

The school district could not be reached immediately for verification.

"It was McDonald's decision to remove our trademarks from report-card jackets in Seminole County, Fla., because we believe the focus should be on the importance of a good education," said Bill Whitman, a spokesman for McDonald's USA. "McDonald's, not the school district, will cover the cost to reprint the report-card jackets."

Regina Klaers, a spokeswoman for the school district, said in December that the school approached McDonald's for the sponsorship, not vice versa. For the 10 years prior to McDonald's sponsorship, Pizza Hut had picked up the tab. During that time, Ms. Klaers said, there were no parental complaints.

Parental initiative
"In the absence of needed government regulation to protect schoolchildren from predatory companies like McDonald's, the burden is on parents to be vigilant about exploitative marketing aimed at children," Ms. Linn said. "One parent can make a difference. There is no doubt that the Seminole County ads would have continued -- and violated McDonald's pledge to stop advertising in elementary schools -- had one parent not called attention to the problem."

Mr. Whitman of McDonald's said that support of education and academic excellence is part of the company's heritage. "Our support of education, as well as our relationship with local schools across the country, is a long-standing commitment and will continue," he said.

Last summer, McDonald's signed on to join the Better Business Bureau's Children's Food and Advertising Initiative. Signatories, including Kraft Foods and Burger King, are to curb advertising to children and focus on healthier options. The reductions were to have been apparent by this January.
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