25 June 2010

These are not your children

These people -- it's never satisfactory for them just to warn parents, and (HORRORS!) let parents decide whether to buy their children Happy Meals which include toys. Of course, they have warned parents; but parents (darn them!) insist on buying Happy Meals for their children. Since the parents won't stop buying, the only alternative is to make McDonald's stop selling the offending product, the product, that is, which offends the Center for Science in the Public Interest, not the parents.

It used to be that parents warned kids to run away from strangers offering candy, but companies have made an end run by laundering their perfidy through electronic media. Now kids absorb countless commercials touting premiums based on their favorite characters -- Shrek, Batman, Barbie, Beanie Babies, etc. -- and, surprise, surprise, ask their parents to take them to McDonald's. Consumer-marketing guru Adam Hanft said, "Happy Meals proved that you could actually 'brand' a meal and make children harass their parents for it."

The Federal Trade Commission has reported that fast-food companies--with McDonald's by far in the lead--spent $360 million in 2006 on toys to market children's meals. In the same year, fast food restaurants sold more than 1.2 billion children's meals with toys to children ages 12 and under, accounting for 20 percent of all child traffic at those restaurants. It should be no surprise that companies employ the practice--it works.

As one reads the article, one gets the impression that, for Jacobson and his ilk, the only market players involved are restaurants like McDonald's and children, where the children are the consumuers. The parents? Oh, those are the people who are "pestered" by the children into talking them to McDonald's and are, apparently, impotent in resisting this pestering. Some of us -- neanderthals, no doubt -- would say this marketing to children via toys works because -- and only because -- parents allow it to work. Jacobson knows better. It's McDonald's; and they've got to be stopped.

Granted "kids absorb countless commercials...and...ask their parents to take them to McDonald's" and that children can be motivated to harass their parents for a product. But the question remains: Who is in charge here? As Bill Cosby might say, "These are not your children!" (I can't tell you what my mother would tell Michael Jacobson.)

I recall the last time I attempted to pester my parents into something. I was about seven years old. Not only did I not get what I wanted, but my pestering was so aggressive I got something I most certainly did not want (but was told I asked for) -- and I got a lot of it!

The children may "pester" and "harass" but Mommy and Daddy are the push-overs who drive the little whiners to McDonald's. Mommy and Daddy are the ones who spend their hard-earned dollars on Crappy Meals. Why doesn't the Center for Science in the Public Interest sue the damn parents? I'll tell you why: McDonald's has more money.



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James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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