The Guy From CSPI Isn’t Toying With McDonald’s

The Guy From CSPI is at it again. Take a look. (Sorry, you’ll have sit through a commercial first.)

As an online article about the lawsuit explains, CSPI is now apparently blaming Happy Meals for most of the nation’s health issues:

The nutrition group claims that using toys to entice children instills bad eating habits and puts kids at higher risk of risk of developing obesity, diabetes, or other diet-related diseases over the course of their lifetime.

Yeah, right. I visited my daughter’s school a few months ago to join her for lunch. She brought lunch from home:  lunchmeat, cheese, nuts and olives. The kids eating the government-approved school lunch were busy snarfing on

  • Four chicken nuggets
  • Peaches in syrup
  • A big scoop of mashed potatoes
  • A dinner roll
  • A box of juice

Anyone want to try to explain to me how that’s a nutritious meal, while a Happy Meal instills bad eating habits?

The CBS “unscientific experiment” was just plain silly, by the way.  Offer me a Guinness, or a Guinness with a 20-dollar bill attached, and you can pretty much guess which one I’d prefer.  It tells us nothing about how Happy Meal toys affect our food choices when we grow up.

I agree with Jacobson on one thing: five-year-olds don’t always understand that the point of advertising is to sell products. That’s why I rarely allow my five-year-old to borrow my wallet and car keys and go shopping by herself. But to hear the fruitcakes at CSPI tell it, you’d think McDonald’s has found some sneaky way of removing parents from the equation:

“McDonald’s is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children,” CSPI’s litigation director, Stephen Gardner, said in a prepared statement. “It’s a creepy and predatory practice that warrants an injunction.”

I think it speaks volumes when an organization identifies its own spokesman as the “litigation director” without wondering if perhaps that makes them sound like lawsuit-happy scumbugs. But that aside, the scenario the lawsuit-happy scumbag paints is ridiculous. If McDonald’s is the creepy guy handing out candy, then in the real world, his encounters with children would go something like this:

“Hello, little boy. Want some candy?”
“Uh … Dad, can I have some of the creepy guy’s candy?”
“How much is the candy, creepy guy?”
“It’s free!”
“I see. So what exactly do you want in exchange?”
“Well, uh … I thought maybe I’d invite your son to take a ride in my car afterwards.”
“Wow! Dad, can I go ride in the creepy guy’s car?”
“No, son. Now if you’ll step aside, I need to punch the creepy guy in the nose.”

McDonald’s can’t sell anything to little kids. They can only sell to the parents. So it’s not really the creepy guy with the candy that CSPI doesn’t trust … it’s the dad. Or the mom. This statement says it all:

CSPI director Michael Jacobson acknowledged that parents bear much of the responsibility for children’s eating habit — a criticism industry defenders often levy. “But multi-billion-dollar corporations make parents’ job nearly impossible by giving away toys and bombarding kids with slick advertising,” he said.

How does “bombarding” my kids with advertising make my job as a parent impossible? Sure, advertising has made my kids aware of Happy Meals toys. That’s why we sometimes have conversations like this:

“Daddy, can we go to McDonald’s?”
“No.”
“Puh-leeeeeeeease!”
“No.”

Or, if we’re at McDonald’s …

“Can we get the Happy Meal?”
“No. Mom said to get six McDoubles to go, and that’s what we’re getting.”
“But I want that toy!”
“No. It’s not worth the extra money.”
“But I really, really, really want that toy!”
“No.”

Trust me, it’s not that hard to say no. I do it all the time. If there are parents in the world who are powerless to say no when their kids whine, those kids are going to have far worse problems in life than bad eating habits. Besides, when they end up in prison, they’ll be fed according to the government’s nutrition guidelines — which The Guy From CSPI likes — so it all balances out.

Sometimes we say yes to the Happy Meals, of course. It’s our choice. We know exactly what we’re doing.  But The Guy From CSPI believes it’s because we’re stupid.  Or, to use the consumers-as-victims theory he prefers, we’ve been duped by “misleading and deceptive advertising.” I guess I’ll have track him down someday and ask for his definition of “deceptive.” I’ve seen the ads, and as far as I can tell, the message is:  Hey, folks, if you buy a Happy Meal, you’ll get

  • This fun little toy
  • A burger or small order of McNuggets
  • Apple slices or a small order of fries
  • A milk jug or a juice box

And wouldn’t you know it, when I take the girls to McDonald’s for a couple of Happy Meals, they end up with

  • The fun little toy
  • A burger or small order of McNuggets
  • Apple slices or a small order of fries
  • A milk jug or a juice box

If there’s deception going on here, it’s so deeply deceptive, I can’t even spot it. If I opened the Happy Meal box and found a tofu-spinach pie inside, then I’d feel deceived.

If anyone should be sued for deception, it’s The Guy From CSPI. He’s the one who insisted in his newsletters twenty years ago that hydrogenated oils were perfectly safe, then harassed the restaurants into using them for frying. It’s his organization that harassed schools into serving fat-free milk instead of whole milk — which provides growing brains the saturated fats they need. It’s CSPI that tells parents to give their kids cereal for breakfast instead of eggs.

There is a creepy guy lurking on the playground … but it’s The Guy From CSPI.


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100 thoughts on “The Guy From CSPI Isn’t Toying With McDonald’s

  1. Drew @ How To Cook Like Your G

    This one I’m sort of conflicted about. Regardless of what is actually in the Happy Meal, I don’t like the idea of advertising targeted at children.

    But to focus on the Happy Meal, and specifically on the toys, diffuses the message that advertising to children is evil.

    You know what? Now that I’ve thought it through, I’m not conflicted after all.

    I’m not at all conflicted. Kids can’t buy diddly, so it’s up to the parents. And if we’re going to outlaw ads “targeted at children,” then someone in government will have to define that term, and it’ll get real stupid, real quickly. What makes an ad “targeted at kids”? Anytime there’s a cartoon character? If Ronald McDonald appears? What if he’s encouraging kids to exercise? What if McDonald’s creates a character named Mr. McSalad?

    Better to leave it alone and trust parents to have brains.

    Reply
  2. Kleedrac

    You should really get your wife to do a few more of those “The Guy from CSPI” cartoons to accompany these blog posts, they were quite entertaining and slightly less disturbing than seeing that annoying personage of little intelligence speak for real.

    I actually thought about that, but she was asleep by the time I was finished writing.

    Reply
  3. Thom Brogan

    It’s obvious that if we don’t behave as the CSPI collective believes we should, it’s do mental defects on our part and the slick advertizing of wretched capitalists out to make bucks off our stupidity. And, later, it’ll probably be the fault of rogue publishers of Mises and Friedrich Hayek that keep us feebly innocent victims from wanting to be placed in gulags.

    And then it’s time for re-education camps.

    Reply
  4. MikeC

    Whenever I read a story like this, I make it a point to go buy something from McDonald’s the next day. Two McDoubles, hold the bun, please.

    That’s how I react, too.

    Reply
  5. Cathie in Ut

    As usual the CSPI folks just can’t resist the notion that all people (with the exception of themselves) have no thought processes other than a follow the evil food people’s lead and can’t decide for themselves what they want to eat.
    Food Nazis strike and again and I will ignore them with one hand full of a no bun burger and a salad in the other with full fat dressing of course!

    Every time The Guy From CSPI opens his mouth, he’s essentially calling the public stupid.

    Reply
  6. Rahul

    Hey Tom,
    I totally agree with this but I became a CSPI hater right from the time I saw your movie. As for that whole CSPI guy being the creepy guy in the playground…..don’t you think that its coincidental that he actually looks creepy (with his whole diseased einstein look) if u actually so that man near a playground and u didn’t know him as the CSPI guy I bet you would still be on alert mode and think “Something about that man isn’t right……” lol atleast I would be lol

    I’ve always thought he looks a little creepy.

    Reply
  7. mezzo

    Just LOOK at that guy from CSPI. What does HE feed on? Whatever it is, I doesn’t seem to make him healthy and happy. Especially not the latter, I rather feel it has turned him into an old grumblo.

    He’s a vegan. And he doesn’t look healthy to me. I’m pretty sure my six-year-old could take him in a fight.

    Reply
  8. Drew @ How To Cook Like Your Grandmother

    This one I’m sort of conflicted about. Regardless of what is actually in the Happy Meal, I don’t like the idea of advertising targeted at children.

    But to focus on the Happy Meal, and specifically on the toys, diffuses the message that advertising to children is evil.

    You know what? Now that I’ve thought it through, I’m not conflicted after all.

    I’m not at all conflicted. Kids can’t buy diddly, so it’s up to the parents. And if we’re going to outlaw ads “targeted at children,” then someone in government will have to define that term, and it’ll get real stupid, real quickly. What makes an ad “targeted at kids”? Anytime there’s a cartoon character? If Ronald McDonald appears? What if he’s encouraging kids to exercise? What if McDonald’s creates a character named Mr. McSalad?

    Better to leave it alone and trust parents to have brains.

    Reply
  9. Kleedrac

    You should really get your wife to do a few more of those “The Guy from CSPI” cartoons to accompany these blog posts, they were quite entertaining and slightly less disturbing than seeing that annoying personage of little intelligence speak for real.

    I actually thought about that, but she was asleep by the time I was finished writing.

    Reply
  10. Thom Brogan

    It’s obvious that if we don’t behave as the CSPI collective believes we should, it’s do mental defects on our part and the slick advertizing of wretched capitalists out to make bucks off our stupidity. And, later, it’ll probably be the fault of rogue publishers of Mises and Friedrich Hayek that keep us feebly innocent victims from wanting to be placed in gulags.

    And then it’s time for re-education camps.

    Reply
  11. MikeC

    Whenever I read a story like this, I make it a point to go buy something from McDonald’s the next day. Two McDoubles, hold the bun, please.

    That’s how I react, too.

    Reply
  12. Cathie in Ut

    As usual the CSPI folks just can’t resist the notion that all people (with the exception of themselves) have no thought processes other than a follow the evil food people’s lead and can’t decide for themselves what they want to eat.
    Food Nazis strike and again and I will ignore them with one hand full of a no bun burger and a salad in the other with full fat dressing of course!

    Every time The Guy From CSPI opens his mouth, he’s essentially calling the public stupid.

    Reply
  13. Rahul

    Hey Tom,
    I totally agree with this but I became a CSPI hater right from the time I saw your movie. As for that whole CSPI guy being the creepy guy in the playground…..don’t you think that its coincidental that he actually looks creepy (with his whole diseased einstein look) if u actually so that man near a playground and u didn’t know him as the CSPI guy I bet you would still be on alert mode and think “Something about that man isn’t right……” lol atleast I would be lol

    I’ve always thought he looks a little creepy.

    Reply
  14. mezzo

    Just LOOK at that guy from CSPI. What does HE feed on? Whatever it is, I doesn’t seem to make him healthy and happy. Especially not the latter, I rather feel it has turned him into an old grumblo.

    He’s a vegan. And he doesn’t look healthy to me. I’m pretty sure my six-year-old could take him in a fight.

    Reply
  15. Josh Goguen

    Why is CSPI fighting this? Don’t they see the solution is right in front of them?

    Just go to the dollar store and buy a bunch of cheap toys. Then, stick them next to what ever food you want your kid to eat. They’ll be powerless!

    “Hey, forget the slice of pizza. I want that broccoli that has a robot next to it.”

    A cheap meal with a free toy seems like a godsend for poorer families. Eh, who worries about them though, right?

    Brilliant! If toys turn kids into mindless eaters, we can get them to eat anything.

    Reply
  16. Jan

    We saw this on the news the other day – my 15-year-old immediately shouted, “LOOK! It’s the Guy from CSPI!!”

    I never realized it was possible to feel so much amusement mixed with so much disgust, but it is. My son was much more succinct: “That’s just about the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.”

    Tom, you need a Facebook fan page.

    That’s hilarious! If only I get the media to start calling him that.

    I believe my wife set up a Fat Head facebook, but I rarely remember to check it.

    http://tiny.cc/mjj19

    I need to remember to go there more often.

    Reply
  17. TWV

    I was waiting for this post as soon as I saw the story about this group of goobers and the threat of a lawsuit. Can’t they be sued for interfering with parenting? Who the hell do they think they are? The only problem with these nutjobs is that people sometimes listen to them or bend to their will. Okay, say the happy meal and other types of meals like that go away. What’s next? I noticed at the local supermarket (unamed because I don’t want these goons to bug them) that toys are on the same isle as the candy. OMG!

    I don’t drink but if you gave me a Guinness with a 20-dollar bill, I would take it just the same.

    That’s why drives me up the wall: the arrogance. I don’t need him to protect my kids. I’m perfectly capable of it myself.

    Reply
  18. Tom Miller

    I saw this article yesterday and cannot believe that CSPI has nothing better to do than sue McDonalds for this. As you state in Fat Head, that most of the kids are more interested in the playlands (and the toys) than actually eating the food in the Happy Meals. Even if they do eat the meal, I checked the McDonalds website and the calorie content of the highest Happy Meal is 580. If you remember in Super Size Me, that they stated that the kids lunch programs in schools, the caloric content topped almost a 1000 for some meals! If they really want to go after the “creepy” people that are causing our kids to have poor eating habits, then they need to go after the goverment, and change the subsidized meals they are providing for the school lunch programs.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen my girls actually finish a Happy Meal. Usually it’s three bites, then they’re running off to the playland … you know, getting some exercise and all that.

    Reply
  19. D

    When I read the news article, I thought, “Tom Naughton needs to blog about this!” You didn’t disappoint, either.

    I have a friend who goes to McDonald’s to buy the toys without the meals. Sometimes the toys are really cool, too. I think adults like the toys as much as the kids do. I wish they gave the toys with ALL the meals. Wouldn’t that make that CSPI guy go ballistic?

    Yes, but pretty much everything makes him go ballistic.

    Reply
  20. Isabel

    I really should take the car keys away from my 3 yr old, because every time she sees a McDonald’s commercial, she grabs her purse, hops in the car and drives over there…

    If only she’d run over The Guy from CSPI …

    Reply
  21. Katie

    So glad you wrote about this! I posted an article about this to Facebook with similar commentary regarding the fact that, the last time I checked, kids weren’t driving themselves to McDonald’s and forking over the money for the happy meals. Parental responsibility, people.

    Plus, fast food restaurants have been giving out toys since I was a kid (which was more than 20 years ago now), it’s not like this is a new thing! I believe my Mom still has teenage mutant ninja turtle, Garfield, and original Batman cups from when we were kids. Not to mention the time when the McDonald’s mini beanie babies were more popular than the regular ones you could buy in the store. Why is this suddenly such a public health emergency? Oh that’s right, it’s because, as you mentioned, CSPI still has its tail between its legs for forcing all of the fast food joints to use “healthy” hydrogenated vegetable oils for frying instead of “arteryclogging” beef tallow and lard. Look how well that one worked out…

    And never a single apology. “Sorry for all the heart attacks we helped cause, folks, but we meant well …”

    Reply
  22. Erica

    Well, I got something out of that video beyond a headache from eye-rolling. I’m going to start putting stickers on the plastic baggies that hold my 6 yo daughters veggies, cheese and blueberries. I think that’s a great idea. Sure, she’d still rather have fruit snacks and potato chips, but that’s why I don’t buy those things.

    You mean you’re able to say no?

    Reply
  23. Josh Goguen

    Why is CSPI fighting this? Don’t they see the solution is right in front of them?

    Just go to the dollar store and buy a bunch of cheap toys. Then, stick them next to what ever food you want your kid to eat. They’ll be powerless!

    “Hey, forget the slice of pizza. I want that broccoli that has a robot next to it.”

    A cheap meal with a free toy seems like a godsend for poorer families. Eh, who worries about them though, right?

    Brilliant! If toys turn kids into mindless eaters, we can get them to eat anything.

    Reply
  24. Drew @ How To Cook Like Your G

    What makes an ad “targeted at kids”?

    I think one pretty clear line is when it’s a TV broadcast made for schools, shown in schools, filled with plugs for corporate sponsors. Did you know that was happening? Are they showing it in your kids’ school? See “Consuming Kids” for that and much more — http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/consuming-kids/ I was really disturbed while watching that, to realize there is a whole industry made up of people willing to psychologically manipulate children to make a buck.

    I agree that I don’t want a government bureaucrat telling me what I should feed my kids. They haven’t exactly done a great job of that. But on the other hand, I’d rather not give corporations free reign to tell my kids what they should be eating. Somewhere between those two extremes should be a sensible middle ground.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on that. Ads can perhaps make kids want something, but so what? Until they have money and transportation, they can’t buy anything. I wanted all kinds of things as a kid that my parents never gave me. I wasn’t traumatized as a result.

    I’m not seeing any damage here that makes it worth chipping away at the First Amendment, and courts have already determined that free speech includes commercial speech.

    Reply
  25. Jan

    We saw this on the news the other day – my 15-year-old immediately shouted, “LOOK! It’s the Guy from CSPI!!”

    I never realized it was possible to feel so much amusement mixed with so much disgust, but it is. My son was much more succinct: “That’s just about the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.”

    Tom, you need a Facebook fan page.

    That’s hilarious! If only I get the media to start calling him that.

    I believe my wife set up a Fat Head facebook, but I rarely remember to check it.

    http://tiny.cc/mjj19

    I need to remember to go there more often.

    Reply
  26. Gwen

    This is about the Proteus Effect — image perception affects how people feel about, and react to, people, things, and events. It also affects how they think of themselves. Making the packaging or the environment surrounding an item or event more pleasing than the same item or event without the packaging changes how people think of the item or event. There’s not only guilt by association, there’s credit by association.

    They’ve used the same thing to sell everything from sneakers to swords since the dawn of time — the athlete’s endorsement on the sneakers, to make you think that if you buy that brand, you too will jump higher and run faster, even though the sneakers have little if anything to do with your ability to run and jump, and while a swordsmith’s mark on a particular blade might speak volumes about the quality of the sword, and its durability, flexibility, and perfect craft, it cannot turn a poor swordsman into a Cyrano — but the implication is there in legend that the great swords lend their perfection to the wielder. (Ever watch Kill Bill? The legend of the Hattori Hanzo blade is a good example.)

    The Proteus Effect is also seen in online communities and virtual worlds, where the user can change the appearance of their “avatar” to look different from their real self. It has been shown in studies that how they feel about themself is changed by the appearance and qualities of the avatar they wear. If forced to wear an unattractive avatar, even if they are attractive in real life, their self-image suffers.

    When a product is sold with another, attractive product, we automatically ascribe characteristics of the attractive product to that with which it is included.

    The original study was done by Nicky Yee over a period of time. Here’s a link to the abstract of the dissertation. There’s a link to a pdf of the entire dissertation on the page. http://www.nickyee.com/daedalus/archives/001569.php

    It’s standard operating procedure. I don’t think using toys to sell Happy Meals is any worse than using Arnold Palmer to sell me Pennzoil.

    Reply
  27. TWV

    I was waiting for this post as soon as I saw the story about this group of goobers and the threat of a lawsuit. Can’t they be sued for interfering with parenting? Who the hell do they think they are? The only problem with these nutjobs is that people sometimes listen to them or bend to their will. Okay, say the happy meal and other types of meals like that go away. What’s next? I noticed at the local supermarket (unamed because I don’t want these goons to bug them) that toys are on the same isle as the candy. OMG!

    I don’t drink but if you gave me a Guinness with a 20-dollar bill, I would take it just the same.

    That’s why drives me up the wall: the arrogance. I don’t need him to protect my kids. I’m perfectly capable of it myself.

    Reply
  28. Tom Miller

    I saw this article yesterday and cannot believe that CSPI has nothing better to do than sue McDonalds for this. As you state in Fat Head, that most of the kids are more interested in the playlands (and the toys) than actually eating the food in the Happy Meals. Even if they do eat the meal, I checked the McDonalds website and the calorie content of the highest Happy Meal is 580. If you remember in Super Size Me, that they stated that the kids lunch programs in schools, the caloric content topped almost a 1000 for some meals! If they really want to go after the “creepy” people that are causing our kids to have poor eating habits, then they need to go after the goverment, and change the subsidized meals they are providing for the school lunch programs.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen my girls actually finish a Happy Meal. Usually it’s three bites, then they’re running off to the playland … you know, getting some exercise and all that.

    Reply
  29. Tina

    When my kids were small, I would take them to McDonalds when the new toy came out in the Happy Meals. How often is that? Once a month at most. And they would only ask if the toy was of interest to them at the time. No big deal

    But wait … you’re giving them bad lifelong eating habits!

    Reply
  30. D

    When I read the news article, I thought, “Tom Naughton needs to blog about this!” You didn’t disappoint, either.

    I have a friend who goes to McDonald’s to buy the toys without the meals. Sometimes the toys are really cool, too. I think adults like the toys as much as the kids do. I wish they gave the toys with ALL the meals. Wouldn’t that make that CSPI guy go ballistic?

    Yes, but pretty much everything makes him go ballistic.

    Reply
  31. Jonathan

    My wife is a preschool teacher. She pointed out to me once that a happy meal with fries, milk, and add a pack of apple dippers, would meet the government requirements for a day care meal; a protein (meat in nugget), a fruit (the apple), a vegetable (they count fries), a starch (the breading on the nugget), and milk.

    I didn’t know it was the toy that made kids fat. Wow.

    That’s why this is so ridicuous. If anything, a Happy Meal is better than what they serve at my daughter’s school.

    Reply
  32. Ms. X

    I’ll tell you what’s deceptive… the kids meals at Burger King come with FAT FREE milk. Bleecch. My kids won’t even drink it so it’s a total waste of money. At least McDonalds still has a trace of fat in the milk.

    CSPI has manage to harrass almost everyone into serving fat-free milk now. Now … if fat is bad for you, why did Mother Nature put so much of it in milk?

    Reply
  33. labrat

    hmmmmmmmmm

    milk or a juice box? Did the Food Police already work their magic? No small soda anymore?

    Ah the McDouble! Dollar Menu! Mommy’s rule – we only order from dollar menus and no drinks – btw – not ‘cuz I’m a food nazi – because I’m too cheap.
    I usually make ’em share the fries too if we get any at all.
    I like to think they lose money on me.

    Mommy definitely determines the McDonald’s orders around here.

    Reply
  34. Isabel

    I really should take the car keys away from my 3 yr old, because every time she sees a McDonald’s commercial, she grabs her purse, hops in the car and drives over there…

    If only she’d run over The Guy from CSPI …

    Reply
  35. M Lewis

    I still want a CSPI Guy t-shirt.

    I think those would sell. Unfortunately, Cafe Press wants $21 per t-shirt. If anyone knows of a cheaper print-and-ship producer, give me a shout.

    Reply
  36. Beatle

    I remember being targeted by adverts as a kid in the early 80’s. McDonalds included. This is nothing new. When I was a kid, we went to fast food joints when my Dad decided it was time to take the kids out. This was not a daily or weekly thing. We didn’t get toys, unless it was our birthday or xmas.

    What has changed? Parenting. Kids today are spoiled.

    kid: “Mom, can we go to McDonalds”
    Mom: “No”

    It’s that easy.

    It was that easy for my parents, and it’s that easy for us now.

    Reply
  37. Katie

    So glad you wrote about this! I posted an article about this to Facebook with similar commentary regarding the fact that, the last time I checked, kids weren’t driving themselves to McDonald’s and forking over the money for the happy meals. Parental responsibility, people.

    Plus, fast food restaurants have been giving out toys since I was a kid (which was more than 20 years ago now), it’s not like this is a new thing! I believe my Mom still has teenage mutant ninja turtle, Garfield, and original Batman cups from when we were kids. Not to mention the time when the McDonald’s mini beanie babies were more popular than the regular ones you could buy in the store. Why is this suddenly such a public health emergency? Oh that’s right, it’s because, as you mentioned, CSPI still has its tail between its legs for forcing all of the fast food joints to use “healthy” hydrogenated vegetable oils for frying instead of “arteryclogging” beef tallow and lard. Look how well that one worked out…

    And never a single apology. “Sorry for all the heart attacks we helped cause, folks, but we meant well …”

    Reply
  38. Erica

    Well, I got something out of that video beyond a headache from eye-rolling. I’m going to start putting stickers on the plastic baggies that hold my 6 yo daughters veggies, cheese and blueberries. I think that’s a great idea. Sure, she’d still rather have fruit snacks and potato chips, but that’s why I don’t buy those things.

    You mean you’re able to say no?

    Reply
  39. Gwen

    I toyed with a pic of CSPI guy from the video, but it’s just too grainy. I was going to see if I could find a place for you to use, but there’s just too many goofball sites out there. I used to have a good place that did dye sublimation printing, but it wouldn’t work well for this application, and it wouldn’t be any cheaper, just better quality.

    I’m getting some good suggestions.

    Reply
  40. Drew @ How To Cook Like Your Grandmother

    What makes an ad “targeted at kids”?

    I think one pretty clear line is when it’s a TV broadcast made for schools, shown in schools, filled with plugs for corporate sponsors. Did you know that was happening? Are they showing it in your kids’ school? See “Consuming Kids” for that and much more — http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/consuming-kids/ I was really disturbed while watching that, to realize there is a whole industry made up of people willing to psychologically manipulate children to make a buck.

    I agree that I don’t want a government bureaucrat telling me what I should feed my kids. They haven’t exactly done a great job of that. But on the other hand, I’d rather not give corporations free reign to tell my kids what they should be eating. Somewhere between those two extremes should be a sensible middle ground.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on that. Ads can perhaps make kids want something, but so what? Until they have money and transportation, they can’t buy anything. I wanted all kinds of things as a kid that my parents never gave me. I wasn’t traumatized as a result.

    I’m not seeing any damage here that makes it worth chipping away at the First Amendment, and courts have already determined that free speech includes commercial speech.

    Reply
  41. Gwen

    This is about the Proteus Effect — image perception affects how people feel about, and react to, people, things, and events. It also affects how they think of themselves. Making the packaging or the environment surrounding an item or event more pleasing than the same item or event without the packaging changes how people think of the item or event. There’s not only guilt by association, there’s credit by association.

    They’ve used the same thing to sell everything from sneakers to swords since the dawn of time — the athlete’s endorsement on the sneakers, to make you think that if you buy that brand, you too will jump higher and run faster, even though the sneakers have little if anything to do with your ability to run and jump, and while a swordsmith’s mark on a particular blade might speak volumes about the quality of the sword, and its durability, flexibility, and perfect craft, it cannot turn a poor swordsman into a Cyrano — but the implication is there in legend that the great swords lend their perfection to the wielder. (Ever watch Kill Bill? The legend of the Hattori Hanzo blade is a good example.)

    The Proteus Effect is also seen in online communities and virtual worlds, where the user can change the appearance of their “avatar” to look different from their real self. It has been shown in studies that how they feel about themself is changed by the appearance and qualities of the avatar they wear. If forced to wear an unattractive avatar, even if they are attractive in real life, their self-image suffers.

    When a product is sold with another, attractive product, we automatically ascribe characteristics of the attractive product to that with which it is included.

    The original study was done by Nicky Yee over a period of time. Here’s a link to the abstract of the dissertation. There’s a link to a pdf of the entire dissertation on the page. http://www.nickyee.com/daedalus/archives/001569.php

    It’s standard operating procedure. I don’t think using toys to sell Happy Meals is any worse than using Arnold Palmer to sell me Pennzoil.

    Reply
  42. tony-k

    I can’t believe these guys. The only reason idiots like CSPI and Meme Roth make it on the news so much is because they’re sensationalsits, plain and simple. They make a lot of noise and they make for good news. BTW, since you feature McDonalds so prominently in “fathead” and not in a negative way either, any chance you might strike a deal to get your movie placed in the Redbox machines around the country for rental? It would be a great way to get the film seen, folks can pick it up for a buck along with their dolar menu goodies!

    They make for good copy or good sound-bites, indeed.

    Reply
  43. Elle

    Ads have targeted children since my parents were kids (50 years ago). When television first started airing shows aimed at kids, advertisers realized that they could advertise their wares directly to kids. This is also about when advertisement left the “Nine out of ten doctors recommend Lucky Strikes” scientific model to “Hey this is super-awesome and you want it because it’ll make you super-awesome!”

    It took 50 years for people to realize that parents have zero control over the purchases that com into the house [/sarcasm]

    Reply
  44. Tina

    When my kids were small, I would take them to McDonalds when the new toy came out in the Happy Meals. How often is that? Once a month at most. And they would only ask if the toy was of interest to them at the time. No big deal

    But wait … you’re giving them bad lifelong eating habits!

    Reply
  45. Jonathan

    My wife is a preschool teacher. She pointed out to me once that a happy meal with fries, milk, and add a pack of apple dippers, would meet the government requirements for a day care meal; a protein (meat in nugget), a fruit (the apple), a vegetable (they count fries), a starch (the breading on the nugget), and milk.

    I didn’t know it was the toy that made kids fat. Wow.

    That’s why this is so ridicuous. If anything, a Happy Meal is better than what they serve at my daughter’s school.

    Reply
  46. Ms. X

    I’ll tell you what’s deceptive… the kids meals at Burger King come with FAT FREE milk. Bleecch. My kids won’t even drink it so it’s a total waste of money. At least McDonalds still has a trace of fat in the milk.

    CSPI has manage to harrass almost everyone into serving fat-free milk now. Now … if fat is bad for you, why did Mother Nature put so much of it in milk?

    Reply
  47. labrat

    hmmmmmmmmm

    milk or a juice box? Did the Food Police already work their magic? No small soda anymore?

    Ah the McDouble! Dollar Menu! Mommy’s rule – we only order from dollar menus and no drinks – btw – not ‘cuz I’m a food nazi – because I’m too cheap.
    I usually make ’em share the fries too if we get any at all.
    I like to think they lose money on me.

    Mommy definitely determines the McDonald’s orders around here.

    Reply
  48. John Hunter

    Sounds like school lunch to me is

    * A little bit of protein coated in starch
    * Sugar lumps in sugar sauce
    * A big pile of starch
    * A little more sugar syrup to wash everything down with
    * And a hardened ball of starch that probably comes with some little lump that most likely started out as corn, then, through chemical magic, is turned it into something that is supposed to resemble butter, but is probably more closely related to and nearly as healthy as plastic.

    SETTLE DOWN CLASS!!!! I just don’t know why they are bouncing off the walls. They can’t concentrate and they are all complaining about being hungry thought they just ate 45 minutes ago.

    And then pass out the ADD prescriptions.

    Reply
  49. M Lewis

    I still want a CSPI Guy t-shirt.

    I think those would sell. Unfortunately, Cafe Press wants $21 per t-shirt. If anyone knows of a cheaper print-and-ship producer, give me a shout.

    Reply

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