Happy Readers kicks off today (9 January) with a five week partnership with publisher DK to give away a series of non-fiction books with Happy Meals.
An animal themed TV ad aimed at children will be supported by press activity targeting mums in consumer magazines.
McDonald’s will work with a number of publishers to give away different book series over the course of the two-year campaign launched in partnership with the National Literacy Trust.
It hopes to address the “startling” statistics revealed by NLT that one in three children don’t own a book and half of children don’t enjoy reading.
More than 15 million children’s books will be given away over the next two years as part of Happy Readers. In the UK 60 million children’s books are sold every year which McDonald’s says demonstrates the scale of the campaign.
The Happy Readers branding will appear on every Happy Meals box from this week alongside a voucher to buy another book for £1 at WH Smiths.
The initiative follows a pilot last year that saw the restaurant chain give away HarperCollins Mudpuddle Farm books as part of a Happy Meals promotion. McDonald’s internal resesrch found that nine in 10 parents wanted the brand to repeat the promotion.
Speaking to Marketing Week ahead of the launch Alistair Macrow, McDonald’s ‘vice president of UK marketing said: “With eight in 10 families in the UK visiting our restaurants in the course of the year we’ve got an opportunity like no one else to give that experience to so much of the UK population. The stats are startling. Our restaurants are fun enjoyable places families come to together and relax so there’s an opportunity for us to inject some fun into the reading experience.”
The brand often attracts criticism for marketing to children and the pilot was criticised by the Children’s Food Campaign and called an “inappropriate marketing strategy at a time when there is an epidemic of childhood obesity”.
Macrow batted away potential criticism for the Happy Readers scheme, saying: “It goes back to NLT research that shows a really clear link between book ownership and children’s future success in life. We’re a brand that has a relationship with more children and families than most other brands so I think it’s a really positive thing for us to take that relationship and do something that’s going to help the development of children. I can only see a positive to using our relationship with families in that way. I think that’s really powerful.”