Letter to the Editor in Boston Globe

Toys are used to foster affection for McDonald's

JOANNA WEISS’S discussion on Happy Meals (“Happy Meals and Old Spice guy,’’ Op-ed, July 25), advertising, and parenting has some great insights, but misses one major element. While the ads are an important factor, the problem with Happy Meals is the toy itself. That’s not just an advertisement, it provides repeated engagement with the company (or more important, the unhealthy food) for the child and the parent, too. The toy is a focal point for imaginative play, reemergence in favorite stories, and a tactile object for a developing set of hands — all of which is branded with the McDonald’s logo in the child’s mind and thus creates a strong positive relationship between the child and the product (the unhealthy food, not the actual toy).

This seduction through association focused on children has been increasingly problematic, which is why other countries regulate advertisements directed toward children. Sure we can argue about parenting, educating the youth, etc., but these messages are mere drops in the bucket compared with all the other messages children get from such companies; hence why infants and toddlers can identify company logos before they can read.

Lance Eaton

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  1. Personally I remember making my father go to McDonald's time and time again just for the toy. I even tried to make him buy one on Ebay. (man I was a brat back then)

  2. It is clear why companies love to direct their advertisements towards children. This generation, there is an increase on parents sticking their children in front of a TV set. (Apparently this is supposed to do the job that they’re too lazy to do, but I won’t get into that.) Children, even those who are very young associate going to McDonalds with getting a new toy. Places that are not fast food joints do not usually have a toy that they comes with their meals and compared to McDonalds, Wendy’s and the like, it may shy them away. Children see the commercials on TV and immediately they want to go eat the food and get the toy. Perhaps this was the company’s ploy all along! By targeting their ads to children, they assume they will get more business. Little do these children know, they are being conned into what the companies want. Fast food places like McDonalds want children to desire the toy they have. Have you ever noticed that at the end of the commercial you always hear “collect them all”? Children will want to do just that and continually want to go back to McDonalds again and again to try and get the toy. What’s really happening in this case is McDonalds is making money by giving away a toy costing no more than .25 cents to manufacture with a 4 dollar meal.


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