There has been a lot of criticism on the internet about fast-food giant, McDonald’s, offering a £1 book offer on its Happy Meal boxes. The ‘Happy Readers’ offer will be featured on the children’s Happy Meal boxes and will enable customers to buy selected £1 books at W H Smith until the end of 2014. The National Literacy Trust is said to be backing the promotion and hopes that the promotion will hand out more than 15 million books over the next year.
A four-week trial was held at the beginning of 2012 to assess the response of the offer, with nine out of ten parents stating that they would like McDonald’s to do more promotions like it.
Today I have read a couple of blogs who have criticised the move. Martyn Daniels’ (‘Brave New World’) has blogged about his disapproval of the scheme stating that publishers will have ‘ketchup on their hands’. I think that Daniels made a valid argument on his blog stating that with the focus on junk food and the constant media attention on growing child and adult obesity, the move to promote reading through unhealthy food is ‘cynical’.
Daniels does make a point that all the effort gone into Jamie Oliver’s healthy school dinners campaign, the usual January ‘get fit’ publications, as well as increased attention on obesity in the UK, does all seem pointless when things like this happen.
Despite the negatives towards this campaign, I personally believe that there is a lot of good surrounding the offer. Whilst I’d like to hope that parents don’t regularly feed their children junk food, I think being able to treat their children to McDonald’s once is a blue moon isn’t a bad thing (I remember my parents doing it), and the fact that McDonald’s are promoting such a worthy cause is a great idea, especially when it’s to do with books and reading. With adults having such busy lifestyles these days and perhaps not having much time to read with their children, anything which promotes reading is a good thing.
Overall I can see why there is such an uproar over this as promoting anything bad is never a great move. However, whilst we live in a world where fast-food chains are a large part of every town’s high street, I do believe it is mainly down to parents (and schools) to teach their children about the dangers of fast-food. I think there is definitely enough media attention on junk food to hopefully make adults and children realise that eating a McDonald’s on a regular basis isn’t going to be good, but I do think that the fact that the company are promoting books and reading in young children is a good thing.
Perhaps the book promotion through McDonald’s will be adapted by healthier food companies in the future. Certainly it should give some publishers food for thought…