I subscribe to a few mommy magazines, most of which I've managed to get for free. The only reason I wanted them in the first place was the Amazon diaper coupons they used to contain (sadly, it seems those days are done). However, it's not in my nature to ignore reading material, especially if it's mom-related, so I do flip through them when they come, usually while eating or doing the opposite.
One of the recent issues included an advertisement for McDonald's Happy Meals. I'd love to quote the ad directly, but apparently, the magazine which contained it was one of the ones I let my daughter chew on while I was using the restroom, and it is gone now. But I still remember the gist: we should buy our kids Happy Meals, because for each one sold, McDonald's donates a portion of the proceeds to the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Oh, how wonderful! Upon closer inspection, I found some tiny text printed vertically on the side of the ad which noted that McDonald's donates a penny for every Happy Meal sold.
So, McDonald's, what you're saying is, if I bought a Happy Meal every single day for a year I would donate a whopping $3.65 to the Ronald McDonald Charities? That's supposed to make me feel awesome?
No, actually, it's supposed to make McDonald's feel awesome. Because plenty of people won't read that fine print and will get it into their heads that buying a Happy Meal is a fun way to contribute to a good cause. Sales of Happy Meals will go up; meanwhile, the amount of money each McDonald's actually donates in a given day will likely be exceeded by the amount it loses in everyday errors made at the register. Profit for the win!
I think that stinks. To be honest, I'm always a little turned off by companies that accept donations for charities, because you know what they turn around and do? Claim credit for all the donations themselves! Yes, I realize that the companies take the trouble of collecting them, and sometimes there's a match, which entitles them to some credit, sure. But the fact remains that those donations are coming from customers. In this case, McDonald's isn't actually soliciting donations, that's true -- anybody who doesn't know about the program and wanted to buy a Happy Meal anyway isn't giving up anything beyond the purchase price. But the McDonald's advertising folks wouldn't be buying ad space in parenting magazines if they didn't count on inspiring a lot of extra Happy Meal sales with this deceptively pitiful, self-promoting charity gimmick.
McDonald's sells millions of Happy Meals every year. The pennies will add up. That's nice. But running disingenuous ads? That's crappy, not happy.
I'll leave you with these words on fast food from Jim Gaffigan, not because they relate to my point, but because they are hilarious: