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This Mother's Day: Moms Aren't Lovin' It
High profile moms, bloggers call on McDonald's to stop marketing to kids
WASHINGTON - May 8 - This Mother's Day - as McDonald's meets intensifying scrutiny of its marketing with new tactics to hook kids on its product - a broad coalition of moms from prominent bloggers to a bestselling author is calling on the burger giant's CEO, Don Thompson, to give moms a break.
Today, two weeks prior to the corporation's annual shareholders' meeting, moms took to the blogosphere, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other social media sites to promote the #MomsNotLovinIt campaign and an accompanying graphic: a mother with her kids standing down a tidal wave of McDonald's promotions.
"As this graphic shows, there is very little this corporation won't do to browbeat kids with its junk food brand," said Gigi Kellett, a mother and spokesperson for Corporate Accountability International, the organization coordinating today's action. "If CEO Thompson won't listen to top doctors, shareholders or even the government in stopping the marketing, just maybe he'll listen to mothers."
Over the last three years, Corporate Accountability International and its partners - including a network of more than 3000 doctors and child care providers - have helped compel McDonald's to make changes to its Happy Meals and reduce the media presence of its iconic clown.
Why the hullabaloo over marketing? The Institute of Medicine and the National Bureau of Economic Research find ending junk food marketing directed at kids could spare the health of millions of children. The White House, four federal agencies (the FTC, FDA, CDC and USDA) recommend curbing junk food marketing kids and the American Academy of Pediatrics goes even further recommending Congress ban junk food advertising during children's programming.
"It doesn't matter if I turn off the TV, closely monitor my kids' internet use, or take a different route to school to avoid billboards, the environment my kids are growing up in is saturated with McDonald's marketing," said Jessica Gottlieb, a top blogger and a mother of two in Los Angeles. "McDonald's intention is to undermine my choices as a parent and that's why I'm choosing to join legions of other moms in pushing back."
McDonald's refers to mothers like Jessica as "gatekeepers" and sees cross-promotions with children's films, celebrity and athlete endorsements, adver-games, school assemblies and more as a means of undercutting said gatekeepers.
McDonald's - never mind its competitors - then aims to further tip the playing field against moms outspending by nearly 10 to 1 each year the nation's leading public health and nutrition educational initiative - an ally to moms in raising healthy kids in an environment crowded with predatory marketing and junk food.
The corporation has also sought to persuade mothers that its brand is no longer unhealthy by ramping-up marketing of "healthier" options like oatmeal with the sugar content of a Snickers bar and salads that actually rival burgers and fries for calories. To make matters worse, McDonald's has given perks to hundreds of bloggers to endorse its product. It also hosted an all-expense paid trip to Chicago for mom bloggers, in hopes they'd in turn act as "ambassadors" for the brand.
And in spite of the health impacts and incendiary marketing tactics, the corporation's apologists argue McDonald's has the right to market as much as it wants to whomever it wants: the issue is one of choice.
"As fast food chains like Jack in the Box and KFC Australia make changes to their marketing in response to the growing global movement calling for an end to marketing to children, the time has come for McDonald's to heed this call to action," said Robyn O'Brien, a mother of four, author of The Unhealthy Truth and founder of AllergyKids. "Let parents decide what we want to feed our children without targeting our kids. It's a move that could earn consumer praise and demonstrate McDonald's leadership in putting kids' health first."
In two weeks, this demand from mothers like Gottlieb and activist organizations like MomsRising and RuddRoots Parents is sure to be a centerpiece of the corporation's shareholders' meeting. For a third year in a row McDonald's is opposing a shareholder resolution that calls on the corporation to publicly assess the financial risks associated its impact on public health. With so many of the health impacts originating with marketing to children, the moms taking action today will be keeping a close eye on CEO Thompson's response.