McDonald’s — Monopoly on Families?

The previous post touched on the subjects of cultural and emotional exploitation in regard to training up children to be McDonald’s customers so that they, in turn, will habituate their children to Happy Meals and plastic toys. So let’s continue onward, chronologically, and see what else they have been up to in the more recent past.

In 2019, McDonald’s was identified as one of the top five companies whose advertising “targeted” the young Latino population, and who were specifically blamed for childhood obesity. Jessica Ravitz wrote for CNN,

Obesity rates for non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanic youth far outpace the rates for white and Asian youth, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 26% of Hispanic youth and 22% of black youth were deemed obese…

The following year saw the publication of a self-congratulatory post from a professional translator who congratulated McDonald’s for its “genuine understanding” of Hispanic customers. Aaron Marco Arias wrote on his blog,

[T]he Culture Marketing Council […] has celebrated McDonald’s for its comprehensive and intelligent approach to Hispanic marketing […] with 360 marketing initiatives per year, grassroots activations, Spanish-only social media accounts, and a website.

McDonald’s was one of the first American companies to create culturally targeted campaigns for minorities within the US… The results have been spectacular, with Latinos being one of the brand’s most loyal customer segments.

What a wholesome and benign way to describe what is, essentially, psychological warfare. Earlier this year, TheCounter.org warned,

On a given day, one-third of children and teens eat fast food. And fast-food consumption is higher for Latino and non-Latino Black teens, who also face greater risks for “diet-related diseases” compared to non-Latino white young people.

Writer Yasemin Nicola Sakay noted that, in 2019, the total fast-food corporate spending on Spanish-language TV was $318 million, which could also be expressed as a 33% increase in the seven years since 2012. Among Spanish-language TV watchers, the preschoolers were seeing more fast-food advertisements than the older children. The little kids were absorbing an average of 342 ads every year. Sakay wrote,

These results are consistent with a 2011 report from Northwestern University, IL, which states that children from marginalized groups spend 1–2 additional hours watching TV when compared with their white peers.

As Childhood Obesity News mentioned before, McDonald’s seems to want to refurbish its reputation. Apparently, the world owes a grudging nod to McDonald’s for being the only quick-serve chain that spent more than 1% of its ad budget to promote nutritious kids’ meals. In his article for Vox, Steven T. Wright points out some things that could maybe counteract the idea that McDonald’s is the epitome of evil in regard to childhood obesity. He quotes Mark Moeller, who is both chef and restaurant consultant:

The original thought with restaurants like McDonald’s was to aim at a family audience, so you could get customers for life… Over the past few years, they’ve decided to become more adult… They try to make it comfortable so older adults from 30 to 60 can go in and feel comfortable enjoying the fast food they grew up on but in a more welcoming environment.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Black and Hispanic youth are targeted with junk food ads, research shows,” CNN.com, 01/15/19
Source: “3 Brands that Understood the Latino Market (and 3 that Didn’t!),” DayTranslations.com, 02/28/20
Source: “Fast food ads continue to disproportionately target Black and Latino youth,” TheCounter.org, 07/07/21
Source: “Fast food’s equity problem: Black and Hispanic youth unfairly targeted by ads,” MedicalNewsToday.com, 07/02/21
Source: “Why McDonald’s looks sleek and boring now,” Vox.com, 11/01/21
Image by Mike Mozart/CC BY 2.0

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Presentations

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources