McDonald’s free Happy Meal offer not considered advertising to children

There’s a McDonald’s ad on the web and Facebook lately which shows a young girl and her mother at McDonald’s. You may think the blurred Happy Meal box and a free offer of a Happy Meal might encourage pester power but that’s not what the advertiser or the Advertising Standards Board says.

The Board dismissed the complaint saying that the mere presence of a child does not make the ad appealing to children. As well, the Board said that the theme of the ad was promoting the Create Your Taste burger, a menu item not “typically chosen by children”, with “the added value of receiving a free happy meal“. Therefore they ruled that the ad was not advertising directed primarily to children and so was not covered under the self-regulatory initiative.

This is a key failing of the Quick Service Restaurant Initiative. If an advertisement is not “primarily” directed to children then it is not considered advertising to children under the Initiative’s definitions.

Advertising Standards Board Case number 0239/16


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