If you didn't know that McDonald's has overhauled its iconic Happy Meal in the interests of better nutrition for kids, you soon will.
The chain begins USA-wide exposure on Wednesday of new TV commercials touting the more healthful Happy Meal, introducing a new cast of back-to-the-farm friendly characters (a boy and his goat) that are putting Hamburglar and Mayor McCheese out to pasture, apparently for good.
In response to pressure from First Lady Michelle Obama on down, McDonald's has evolved the Happy Meal into a more healthful repast that includes more better-for-you elements. Last summer, the company announced the changes that it is rolling out nationally in the Happy Meal this spring, including the provision of apple slices and a kid-size portion of fries as standard features.
So now, of course, it is time to market these changes as only McDonald's can — and not just in the US.
"For the first time, 100 percent of our national marketing efforts to kids will include nutrition or active lifestyle messages — a significant move in our ongoing commitment to children's wellbeing," stated Neil Golden, McDonald's USA Chief Marketing Officer, in a press release today. "We are proud of this new approach and believe it will help make nutrition fun for kids while helping families feel even better about the food choices they make when visiting McDonald's."
The new TV campaign (which, like the latest Happy Meal TV spot, promotes the nutritionally improved kids combo — and Mighty Kids tween meal — as fun and healthy) introduces an animated character named Ferris who has an animated goat that wants to eat everything; but Ferris (of course) teaches him to eat right. Future spots will introduce other kid-friendly characters named Ant, Deana the Dino and Dodo.
Apparently the traditional McDonald's characters, such as the grossly monikered Grimace, will live on only in YouTube archives. And while McDonald's insists that Ronald McDonald remains their kids mascot, he has been relegated only to Ed McMahon-type supporting roles from now on, or to appearing in commercials running on kids-targeted video-on-demand channels in America.
McDonald's new kids nutrition marketing push is comprehensive, to say the least.
The new US TV campaign is complimented by a digital effort that explains the revised Happy Meal on the McDonald's USA homepage (see above). A Happy Meal Chefs contest features a grand prize that ties in to McDonald's recently-renewed corporate sponsorship of the Olympics by offering a trip to London for the 2012 summer games, while five-time U.S. Olympic medalist Dara Torres is a judge. The digital campaign also reiterates that every Happy Meal supports the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
In the UK, meanwhile, McDonald's is even trying out a new kids-oriented restaurant concept that includes iPads and digitally projected games. McDonald's UK also has enlisted the help of two classic (American) kids' cartoon characters, Tom and Jerry, to help promote the better-for-you side servings of fruit and carrots in each Happy Meal, while its website highlights that the fish in its kids' fish fingers option comes from sustainable seafood.