Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Are you old enough to buy that Happy Meal? Part 2

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is Part 2 in a series discussing fast-food giant McDonald's decision to feature Happy Meal toys inspired by the PG-13 rated Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Part 1 can be found here.

In Part 1, I discussed what I believe was an unprecedented move by McDonald's - using toys based on a PG-13 rated movie in their Happy and Mighty Kids Meals. More specifically, I pointed out that it seems odd that a PG-13 themed motion picture would be an ideal match for younger consumers. After all, by definition, a PG-13 rating "cautions parents...to give special attention to this film before they allow their 12-year-olds and younger to attend (link)." Not exactly the ideal flick for younger viewers.

Since things seemed a little off, I figured I might as well ask McDonald's what they were doing. For all I knew, Happy Meals were targeted at eaters over the age of 15 and Mighty Kids Meals were designed for college kids such as myself. With this in mind, I posed the question to the fast-food behemoth. Through the "Contact Us" link found on the McDonald's front page, I was able to get to an email form specifically designed to handle questions related to "McDonald's U.S. Marketing, Promotions, and Advertising."

Without further ado, I sent, using a pseudonym, the following email:
To whom it may concern,

I am a sastified** customer of the many fine McDonalds across the United States and have what I hope is just a quick and easy question.

McDonalds Happy Meals (and now Mighty Kids Meals) have been one of the great business success stories of all time and are enjoyed by children across our nation on a daily basis. While I know that Happy Meals and Mighty Kids Meals are enjoyed by people of all ages, I was wondering what age demographic(s) McDonalds primarily targets with these meals.

Any insight would be greatly appreciated by this curious individual.

Thank you very much for your time.

**** *******
I received an automated response soon after sending off my inquiry to Mickey D headquarters. I suggest you note the date.So, I settled in for a response. But a week later, I still had not gotten a response. So, on July 7th, I sent another email that read as follows:
Last Thursday (June 29), I used this form to ask a question regarding the marketing of McDonald's Happy and Mighty Kids Meals and have yet to recieve*** a response.

I know that McDonald's must receive thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of emails on a daily basis and would certainly understand if there simply hasn't been time to get to my question yet. After all, I did receive an automated response telling me that my submission had been received. However, just in case my submission was accidently**** deleted or misplaced or somehow lost in transit, I thought it would be a good idea to re-submit my question.

My inquiry was this: while I know that McDonald's Happy and Mighty Kids Meals are enjoyed by people of all ages, I was wondering what age demographic(s) were primarily being targeted with these meals.

Any insight McDonald's could offer into this subject would be greatly appreciated.
Again I received another automated response, but again, the days went by, and no McDonald's reply arrived in my inbox. It would turn out that McDonald's would not respond to my email until July 26 - nearly one month since I originally submitted my question. Furthermore, as you can see, the response I received was basically worthless...
The email was a disappointment. In short, I was pretty certain that it was a big load of crap.

To begin with, judging from this email, "Bonnie" may not even be a real person; it reads like an automated response if I ever heard one (for example: putting paragraphs 1 and 3 together, Bonnie apparently welcomes the opportunity to share the information with me that she can't share information with me?!).

Additionally, unless Bonnie is short for "Bonnie Sun-Li," who in the world is working customer service for McDonald's at 10 pm?! Seriously - according to the FAQ page for customer service, the McDonald's customer email center is operational from "Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm Central Time (link)." 10 pm does not fall within those hours.

Certainly it's possible that Bonnie is a real person,
who regularly reads emails sent to mcdonaldscorporation@us.mcd.com, and carefully crafted that email to me, but I think it's unlikely.

That all being said, the suspect origins of that email were not the prime reason I felt (and feel) pretty certain that someone
was being dishonest. When Bonnie said the information I requested was "considered proprietary business information," I immediately knew that something was up. Why? Because unbeknownst to Bonnie (and you reading this), long before I received this laughable email, I had already taken other measures to obtain my desired information.

How? Well, you'll have to wait until Part 3 for that, because this post has gotten WAAAAY too long already. When you've got a tangled web of
kids meals, MPAA ratings, pirates, and corporate responsibility and only me for your guide, it can take a while.

Click here to read Part 3.

*The McDonald's U.S. Marketing, Promotions, and Advertising subcategory of the contact page is described as the following: "Find current information about McDonald’s Happy Meals and other promotions. Or share a marketing, promotion or advertising comment or ask a question (link)."

**Yes, I really did spell it sastified. Good for me, I know.

***Yes, I really did spell it recieved. I was all part of the plan. Um, seriously.

****No, no I can't spell, OK?!


Anonymous said...

Just like Pirates of the Caribbean your saga is going into it's third sequal!!! Ayyye matey, that's a happy meal in that dead man's chest!!!That aren't chicken in them Mcnuggets either...that be premium octopus wings!Ayyyyye!!!

Steven said...

Maybe you should go to the King. I'm sure the realm of the Burger King has information on the targeting of children by the evil McCorporation.

Jason Hill said...

Steven might be onto something. BK does have some slammin' online marketing. I'll bet the chicken would answer your question.

Jason Hill said...

I am looking forward to part 3, however.

Anonymous said...

Steve, you raise an interesting question: would you rather trust a king or a clown? I think I'm with you - I'd abandon democracy in an instant to avoid those creepy clowns.

Agreed Jason - subservient chicken vs. "I'm lovin' it" isn't even a contest.

Anonymous said...

Since we're on the subject of fast-food online advertising, has anyone seen McDonald's latest and incredibly bizarre pitch, Fantasyfankit.com? Weird stuff.