McDonald’s chief marketing officer Larry Light has backed an increase in marketing to children, just as the likes of Coca-Cola, Heinz, Kraft and Pepsi are pledging restrictions on advertising to the young.
However, Light says any increase in marketing to that age group will signal an attempt to educate children about balanced diets and active lifestyles.
At yesterday’s Incorporated Society for British Advertisers annual conference, Light criticised the view that it is becoming difficult for companies to communicate with children, and called for new standards for communication. He said: “We do not need less communication to children: we need more. If we want to educate children to eat right and be active, we need effective marketing communications that are responsive and responsible.
His speech coincides with an announcement today (Wednesday) that the fast food chain is investing £7.4m in a raft of measures that will make it easier for parents to choose healthier options for their children at McDonald’s and that will promote active lifestyles.
The move includes the launch of five new items in the Happy Meal range – carrot sticks, chicken grills, fruit jelly and low-calorie drinks Robinson’s Apple Fruit Shoot and Sprite Z.
There will also be an increased focus in Happy Meal advertising on the healthier options available, with at least one of the fruit and vegetable choices being promoted in its campaigns. McDonald’s is spending £3.65m promoting Happy Meals. A campaign will break on March 24, when the new options are officially launched.
The campaign promoting balanced lifestyles to adults and children will come under the banner of: “It’s What I eat, it’s what I do”. It is understood that it will use McDonald’s Olympic sponsorship.
The new children’s products will be supported by a nutritional information chart, the Happy Meal Choice Chart, which lists the calories, fat, saturated fat, added sugar and salt content of all the meal combinations. It will also include recommendations made by the McDonald’s Mums’ Panel, a group of ten mothers from across the UK, which includes former swimmer Sharron Davies. The “Mums’ Panel Loves” logo will highlight the group’s suggested options.
The new Happy Meal strategy will fit into a new seven-point self-regulation strategy that Light also launched at the conference.