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3/2/2006 9:59:25 AM

Updated 02/24/06

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Networks Not Lovin’ McDonald’s Efforts

New commercial with a healthy focus draws fire from morning shows.

By Amy Menefee
June 9, 2005

     McDonald’s took another hit from network mornings shows on June 9, 2005. All three networks – NBC, CBS and ABC – attacked a new commercial and one even blamed the restaurant for childhood obesity.

     On CBS’s “The Early Show,” Hannah Storm interviewed advertising critic Barbara Lippert, who declared that McDonald’s is “the new tobacco” and blamed the burger chain for obesity. “They see that they’ve engendered this problem, they’ve really created this way of eating, and now they’re trying to do something good,” she said of the commercial, which depicts active children exercising and getting vegetables.

     Storm argued, “Some people would argue that the smart choice is to not eat at McDonald’s.” She later added, “But some people, experts, claim that these ads are disingenuous because you can’t find that food that you see in the commercial in abundance when you go to a McDonald’s.”

     Storm did not have any actual people giving the opinions that she attributed to “some people.” The reporter was the only source of these comments in the show’s segment on the issue, and the voice of personal responsibility was conspicuously absent.

     In fact, McDonald’s does offer the foods shown in the ad, including garden-style salads, fruit salad and a fruit and yogurt parfait. Lippert chimed in that their menu is “still 90-10, 10 percent salads.” She left out the fact that McDonald’s responds to customer choices to make its menu selections.

     Lippert said this is “a very schizophrenic time for fast food,” as chains have added salads and other less-fattening options to their menus. “On one hand, that’s where they make their money, that’s what they sell,” she said. “But on the other hand, they know they have to change the menu.” Storm didn’t bother to correct Lippert. She could have pointed out that restaurants don’t have to change their menus. They have been doing so in response to consumer demand.

     On ABC, David Muir used his “Good Morning America” report to remind viewers that “more than 9 million children in the U.S. are overweight, and a third of them eat fast food every day.”

     His anti-McDonald’s expert, who said the restaurant “lures” customers with healthier menu options only for them to “succumb to the smell of the deep fryer,” was Dr. David Katz. Katz is a regular contributor to ABC News, but he also directs the Yale Prevention Research Center, which is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recently revised its statistics on obesity-related deaths, which were found to be highly overstated. However, CDC became uncomfortable with its new statistics and kept up its crusade against obesity.

     Peter Alexander continued the morning’s trend on NBC’s “Today,” bemoaning the childhood obesity “epidemic” before including footage of Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me” in his report. As Alexander noted, Spurlock’s anti-McDonald’s film claimed that the chain helped “get kids hooked on fast food.”

     After including a token comment from McDonald’s marketing vice president, Alexander emphasized how long a person would have to run to work off a McDonald’s meal with a burger and fries. He then turned to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a radical anti-food industry organization, for criticism of the commercial. CSPI’s Michael Jacobson said that “McDonald’s should be serving healthier foods.”

     Fast food restaurants, like any other companies, adjust their product offerings to meet consumer demand. They also use advertising in an attempt to sell products. However, Lippert and Storm criticized several restaurants for these common business practices.

     “McDonald’s is marketing to children; Carl’s Jr. and Burger King are marketing to men,” Storm said. “This all sort of smacks of desperation.”

     Unfortunately, the networks’ reaction to McDonald’s new advertising emphasis on health smacked of anything but balance.


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