Maccas ad banned for using cartoons to market to kids

Maccas ad banned for using cartoons to market to kids

McDonald’s has pulled a promotional ad for its Happy Meal products spruiking Despicable Me 2 because the depiction of cartoon characters being active does not encourage kids to get active themselves.

B&T Magazine
Posted by B&T Magazine

In the ad two “Minion” characters were seen painting a white wall with a Happy Meal box, before horseplay ensues and the box ends up painting the wall with one of the characters.

The fast-food giant was hauled up before the Advertising Standards Bureau after a complainant said the ad breached the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative by pushing “fattening and nutrition-poor food”.

But in its response McDonald’s pointed out it has not signed up to the code, and instead listed a series of other codes it says have safeguards in place for advertising to children including the Australian Association of National Advertisers and Australian Quick Service Restaurant Industry Initiative for Responsible Advertising and Marketing to Children (QSR).

The ASB decided whilst showing painting a large space would encourage kids to be active, a stipulation under section 3.1 of the QSR, they “agreed that the portrayal of cartoon characters painting was not of itself a message that was promoting or encouraging physical activity to the target audience of children”.

Because of this decision the board decided it also breached 3.2 of the QSR, because it uses licensed characters in the promotion.

But, they decided the ad did not breach any of the AANA code of ethics, because the products being advertised, a chicken wrap, fruit and milk, are not considered unhealthy thanks to an earlier determination.

In a response the restaurant chain “respectfully disagrees” with the finding, adding: “McDonald's view is that painting could be considered "active play" within the Department's contemplation of moderate activity.

“That is, the characters in the TVC are shown engaged in active play. In addition, the characters in the TVC are shown laughing and having fun with their friends and the tone of the TVC is generally playful and positive which reinforces the message of active play.

“The use of characters engaged in a physical activity shown in a fun and upbeat light encourages children to also engage in physical activity as they would want to emulate the characters and recreate the fun.”

They agreed to stop running the ad as of August 7.