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McDonald's is Advertising on Elementary School Report Cards

McDonald's is Advertising on Elementary School Report Cards

I’ve worked in advertising and marketing for over 21 years. There’s a tasteful and professional way for large corporations to sponsor such programs. This just seemed very inappropriate, very blatant and direct, into the hands of my daughter.
-Susan Pagan, Seminole County parent

December 7, 2007 —

A year ago, the school board in Seminole County, Fla., teamed up with the owners of local McDonald's franchises to create a junk food rewards program for students with good grades and attendance records. Rewarding good academic performance with a Happy Meal may not seem so bad, but the partnership between the school board and McDonald's didn't end there.

All students in Seminole County receive their report cards in removable jackets which parents much sign and return to the schools. McDonald's paid the printing cost for those jackets in exchange for the right to plaster their logo and pictures of their products all over them. To Susan Linn, director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, this brand of advertising crosses a line:

Turning report cards into ads for McDonald’s undermines parents’ efforts to encourage healthy eating. It’s a terribly troubling trend.  It really, clearly links doing well in school with getting a Happy Meal.

For its part, McDonald's corporate headquarters says promotions like the one in Seminole County are local decisions and not part of any policy from above. But while the responsibility to shield kids from being marketed to in the classroom primarily fall upon local school boards, it's also rather disappointing to see that McDonald's hasn't banned its franchises from engaging in such campaigns.

McDonald's is the in the process of trying to clean up its image by promoting healthier eating to its youngest customers, and these kind of tactics are bound to turn off some of the concerned parents it hoped to win back. Earlier this year, McDonald's and Kraft Foods made a voluntary pledge not to advertise foods that didn't meet certain nutritional guidelines to children younger than 12.

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