From November 1-14, McDonald’s will give away 20 million children’s books with their Happy Meals instead of a toy in an effort to promote literacy. Last year, McDonald’s gave away 9 million books in the UK. While the books distributed in the UK, the Mudpuddle Farm series, were written by author Michael Morpurgo, the books being distributed in the US were written by McDonald’s advertising agency, Leo Burnett. In both places, the promotion has briefly made the company one of the largest distributors and publishers of children’s books.
Leo Burnett wrote four different books for McDonald’s: “The Goat Who Ate Everything”, “Deana’s Big Dreams”, “Ant Can’t”, and “Doddi the Dodo Goes to Orlando”. Each book focuses on healthy eating and exercise. Here’s a brief description of each book:
“The Goat Who Ate Everything” – This is a story about a goat who has a large appetite and a hard time eating healthy, but when he does, he feels amazing.
“Deana’s Big Dreams” – This is a story about how Deana, the smallest dinosaur, grew big and tall by eating right.
“Ant Cant” – This is a story about Ant, a tiny bodybuilder who enjoys encouraging others to eat healthy and exercise.
“Doddi the Dodo Goes to Orlando” – This is a story about Doddi the Dodo who travels the world and eats healthy so she has the energy to explore.
While getting children excited about reading seems to be a positive goal, watchdog groups like Corporate Accountability International have said that McDonald’s is “trying to earn undeserved goodwill from the growing number of parents and health advocates who are calling on them to stop marketing to kids”. In other words, the theme of the books–living a healthy lifestyle–seems to be a publicity stunt created to help the company’s reputation. However, after a successful pilot program in England, McDonald’s has stated that nine out of ten parents surveyed wanted to see more book promotions from the company.
If parents really do want more book promotions from McDonald’s, they will soon be able to by going online and viewing new interactive digital books each month through the end of 2014. The digital books are being created in partnership with DK publishing.
On one hand, McDonald’s book promotion does seem like a way to get books directly in the hand’s of children. Yet, it also seems a bit ironic that a fast food chain that has often been the target of health advocacy groups and parents is promoting healthy eating. The creation of an interactive digital book that is connected to McDonald’s website also seems like just another way for children to develop a relationship with the brand. However, it wouldn’t be a good thing to completely discount the company’s efforts. After all, literacy rates are declining. Studies show every day that less children, or adults for that matter, are reading. If McDonald’s can change that, then good for them. And good for us.
– Melanie Figueroa