CARU Recommends McDonald’s Modify Adverting to Focus on Product, Not Premium

New York, NY – May 14,  2015 –The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) has recommended that McDonald’s take care to assure in future advertising directed to children that commercials focus on the advertised food product and not on the premium.

CARU is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s self-regulatory system and is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

A 30-second television commercial for McDonald’s Happy Meal that included “Teenie Beanie Baby Boo” toys as a premium came to CARU’s the attention through its routine monitoring of advertising directed to children.

The commercial opened with two animated characters shaped like Happy Meal boxes playfully engaging with a tube of yogurt. The scene then cut to a child walking toward a Happy Meal box. “I am so excited to find out what’s in here,” the child said.  The meal itself – a tube of yogurt, Chicken McNuggets and French fries – was beside the box. The commercial then showed a second child pulling a toy from a Happy Meal box. In the foreground was a partial out-of-focus image of a yogurt tube.

The camera then cut to two other children beside a Happy Meal box; one held a tube of yogurt and there were juice boxes and French fries on the table. The camera moved in for a close-up of the toy, as one of the children pulled her toy from the box and then focused on the toy.

The next screen showed all the available Teenie Beanie Boo toys, followed by a shot of the animated Happy Meal boxes. The commercial ended with an island shot of a Happy Meal including chicken McNuggets, a large container of French fries, a juice box and a tube of yogurt.

In this case, the advertiser argued that the commercial more prominently features the Happy Meal food/beverage than the toy, because the primary focus and the most engaging aspect of the spot was an animated segment featuring an animated character interacting in a fun way with yogurt.  It maintained that the food was prominently displayed throughout the commercial and was displayed on screen almost twice as long as the toy. Finally, the advertiser also contended that the food is prominently and exclusively (without the toy) featured in the prime real estate at the beginning and end of the spot.

Following its review of the advertising at issue, CARU determined that the commercial’s primary focus was on the premium and that children would have difficulty distinguishing between the product and the premium.

McDonald’s, in its advertiser’s statement, said the “The ad at issue is no longer running. Although we believe that the ad primarily focuses the child’s attention on the product, McDonald’s respects the self-regulatory process and will take CARU’s comments into consideration when producing future ads.”