|Among the health-oriented visual gimmicks in the new McDonald's TV ads is an animated lettuce head character.
MCDONALD'S ADS TARGET CHILDREN AS YOUNG AS 4
Government Food Marketing Hearing Told of Elementary School Programs
FOOD MARKETERS READY CONGRESSIONAL LOBBYING EFFORT
Plan Aggressive Defense of Children's Food Advertising Business
HOW THE OBESITY DEBATE BECAME FAT WITH DISINFORMATION
Critics Cite Myth Built of Sloppy Science and Cultural Bias
KRAFT TO STOP ADVERTISING SOME FOODS TO CHILDREN
Marketing Strategy Shifted to Emphasize More Nutritious Products
GROUP CALLS FOR JUNK FOOD AD BAN ON CHILDRENS' SHOWS
Proposed Guidelines Target 18-Year-Olds
STUDY LINKS CHILDHOOD OBESITY AND ADVERTISING
Kaiser Foundation Findings Debated at Washington Forum
REPORT HITS 'COMMERCIALIZATION OF CHILDHOOD'
Calls for Restrictions on Children-Oriented Advertising
GROUP CALLS FOR BAN ON HIGH-FAT FOOD ADVERTISING
Charges Food Companies With 'Marketing Obesity to Children'
The global effort is clearly a response to the public health advocates, governments and other critics who have called for a crackdown on the food marketers they blame for an explosion in childhood obesity.
At a crowded McDonald's restaurant in Times Square this morning, McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner introduced the effort, which includes TV commercials, sponsorships with various media and nonprofit organizations, Web sites, in-restaurant promotions and endorsements from celebrities and athletes, all aimed at families and children.
The message: People should pay attention to the foods they eat and their level of activity to find the right balance.
"We're focusing on energy balance in this broad-based, global program and providing a framework that will be adapted around the world, country by country," Mr. Skinner said. "Our size and our strength allow us to set an example."
Added Dean Barrett, senior vice president and global brand business officer for global marketing: "We are listening, we are learning, and we are going to change."
Ad budget shifted
The health-related ads incorporate and expand on McDonald's global tagline, "I'm lovin' it," to say "It's what I eat and what I do ... I'm lovin' it." McDonald's would not comment on how much the effort costs, though Mr. Barrett said a "significant part" of the company's retail marketing budget aimed at children will instead be allocated to the campaign in the U.S.
Kraft phases out snack ads
McDonald's, which in the U.S. is partnering with various media companies including children's network Nickelodeon, part of Viacom, and children's publisher Scholastic, is taking a markedly different approach than other food marketers feeling the heat in the childhood obesity debate. Kraft Foods, for instance, in January announced it would stop advertising snacks such as Kool-Aid and Oreo cookies to children between the ages of 6 and ll. Kraft this year is phasing out all TV, print and radio ads targeting that age group, which accounts for about 10% of its advertising budget.
McDonald's Mr. Barrett said, "We have a job to do in communicating this message. We are not going to back away; we are not going to stop talking to kids in ways that are relevant."
Ads adapted to local markets
The new TV ads, created by Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, feature popular athletes such as tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams and snowboarding pro Crispin Lipscomb. The commercials are being adapted to local markets globally by Leo Burnett offices worldwide. Other McDonald roster agencies, such as Omnicom Group's TBWA Worldwide and DDB Worldwide, are also involved in the global adaptation.
The commercial featuring the Williams sisters includes the lyrics "I'm burnin' calories like a fiend. ... Leafy greens so right for you. I'm making good choices, you can, too," while shots of salads and other menu items are interspersed with shots of the tennis stars on the court.
Ronald sports workout gear
McDonald's is also putting its well-known icon and "chief happiness officer," Ronald McDonald, to work on the new lifestyle mission. The character sports snappy yellow-and-red-colored workout gear and appears in some of new TV commercials as well as on various packaging and outdoor creative executions, all of which show him in some form of physical activity, such as scaling one side of an office building.
Fourteen 8- and 9-year-old children from the Police Athletic League in Harlem attended this morning's event as part of PAL's program to encourage healthy diet and exercise habits in children. "This is a compromise on both sides," said John Alvarez, PAL director of special programs. "Just to have an endorsement from a place that kids idealize, that's important. At least kids are getting the same message from McDonald's and from us."