Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Supersize My... Report Card?

McDonald's is now advertising on report cards in the Seminole County school district in Florida, according to an article in Advertising Age last week.

"McD's Newest Ad Platform: Report Cards"

The report cards now sport a Mickey D's coupon on their fronts, offering a free happy meal to kids who get good grades, don't have many absences, or are generally well-behaved... and who bring their report card -slash- coupon to a participating McDonald's.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about good grades. I'm a total geek like that. But does this ad campaign take advertising to a dangerous low? When McDonald's is fronting the printing costs for your report cards (I'm looking at you, Seminole County) in exchange for free advertising -- doesn't that cross a line?

It raises the old Channel One debate again. What's advertising's place in schools?

(If you don't know about Channel One, you can read a summary of the debate here at Commercial Alert. Also, check out http://www.obligation.org, a site built to raise awareness about commercialism in schools.)

Some parents are upset because McDonald's is side-stepping the parents and not only targeting kids directly but also telling them what their reward should be for good behavior: fast food. I think the problem's even bigger than that. And it's not just McDonald's. (Although it's so easy to hate on Mickey D's.)

I remember back when I was a smaller, younger geek and always participated in the Book It! program at school. You read a certain number of books, you get a free topping on your Pizza Hut pizza. Ultimate product placement. I didn't think anything of it at the time, but it definitely made my family take a trip to Pizza Hut that we otherwise wouldn't have taken. So in retrospect, it was brilliant marketing. That doesn't make it right though. Kids are impressionable and don't understand about media literacy. I know schools need funding. But I don't think fast food chains is where they should be getting it. Not in exchange for direct, targeted advertising to kids in the one place that's supposed to be governmentally sanctioned as safe from evil media: school.

What say you, blog readers? Do you agree with me: that McDonalds-sponsored report cards is taking it too far? Or do you think it's really no big deal? Companies have been doing these things for years, and we all turned out okay.

But does that make it right?

2 comments:

Ben said...

I think the government has to take a lot of the blame as well. Buy one less bomb and let's educate our children so that they understand McDonald's is horribly unhealthy and thrives on unscrupulous business practices.

When I was in school we had a similar reading incentive. Our librarian cut her hair if we got to a certain goal.

Ben said...

btw, did you hear that the Super-Size Me guy might have found bin Laden?