McDonald's Advertises On Elementary School Report Cards

UPDATE: McDonald’s Stops Advertising On Elementary School Report Cards

Health advocates are setting their outrage phasers on kill over a McDonald’s ad appearing on the report cards of Seminole County, Florida elementary schools. The ad promises free Happy Meals to kids with good grades, despite promises by McDonald’s that they would ” ban advertising to children under 12 or limit them to food and snacks that meet certain nutritional guidelines.”


The Seminole County district said it has created such partnerships for years. Pizza Hut had been a partner for a decade and opted not to participate for the 2007-08 school year. McDonald’s took its place. Under the terms of the deal, McDonald’s fronted the bill ($1,600) for the printing costs associated with produced report cards for 27,000 students.

“McDonald’s has a long-standing and rich heritage of supporting education and academic excellence,” said William Whitman, a rep for McDonald’s USA, Oak Brook, Ill. “McDonald’s does not advertise in schools. However, we continue to support education initiatives in the communities we serve.”

We were able to get cheeseburgers and other various and sundry delights for good grades while growing up in the McD’s homeland, but they never actually printed Ronald McDonald on our report card envelope. We find it hard to get upset about treating kids who have worked hard to a free Happy Meal, but the envelope thing is kinda tacky.

McD’s Report Card Ads Draw Fire [ADWEEK]
McDonald’s Ads Hit New Low [Chicago Tribune]
(Photo:Chicago Tribune)


Edit Your Comment

  1. ironchef says:

    tacky but I’m sure a happy meal beats a carrot as an incentive device.

  2. AnneCA says:

    Yes, our McD’s offered free something with a good report card when I was a kid (DECADES ago). But, that envelope is essentially a McD’s advertisement, which is very not cool for a school to be issuing. Plus, it’s poorly written, and it’s “two or fewer absences,” not “two or less.” Shouldn’t a school, at least, be using proper grammar?

  3. R3PUBLIC0N says:

    Wow, they REALLY need to censor that name better. Took me about ten seconds in Photoshop to reverse it.

  4. forgottenpassword says:

    I remember when i was little (back in the late 70s/early 80s) Mcdonalds occasionally worked with schools to offer free food as incentives to good grades or during some special school event. They never advertised on report cards or in school, but special coupons were given out as rewards by teachers for good grades etc. etc..

    It didnt happen often & was pretty low-key.

  5. dollywould says:

    I remember the Book It program, and getting free Pizza Hut personal pizzas for reading. I read like a fiend all through childhood. Hm, I wonder why I was a fat child? hahahaaha.

  6. sonichghog says:

    McDonalds is not making kids fat. Its the parents of the fat kids that are making them fat.

  7. Cratin says:

    I remember when I was in grade school…you got a free cheeseburger for every A you got. I always wondered why the kids with the best grades were always overweight with horrible acne.

  8. Mike_ says:

    Yeah, someone gets an F in Redacting. I can read the name through the black marker without any manipulation. No Happy Meal for you.

  9. Myron says:

    @sonichghog: So kids, stop eating your parents. It’s fattening and gross.

  10. timmus says:

    Well, it is Florida.

  11. Isn’t it McDonald’s claim that their Happy Meals are healthy if you pick the alternatives? (That might not be true but that’s what they’re saying, isn’t it?)

    “McDonald’s does not advertise in schools…

    Someone from corporate will take this seriously in 5…4…3…

  12. coan_net says:

    Either things like this – or more tax money. Most will say they don’t like advertisements to kids like this, but few are willing to open their wallets to pay more to let the schools have the money to do what they need to do.

  13. Shadowfire says:

    The arcade by my old hometown had a deal where you’d get a certain number of tokens for every A and B on your report card. This really isn’t any different…

  14. jameslutz says:

    My 2nd grader just got a personal pan pizza certificate to go with the other ten that she has. She has also has gotten free taco certificates. Both for meeting reading goals. This is in Virginia. I agree with the rewarding part, but why fast food? How about free cheap merchandise or something.

  15. K-Bo says:

    I think if the only time a kid has McDonald’s is once per report card, you are teaching them the very important lesson that it’s ok to have a treat occasionally to reward yourself, but not every day. At least that’s what I learned from the fact I only got pizza when I earned it from book-it. How this message comes across is much more dependent on the parents than McDonald’s or the school. Not saying its a good thing that could be continued, just saying if I had a child that earned one, I’d proudly let them go redeem it, even though it would be their first time at McDonald’s ever.

  16. Hoss says:

    At least there’s some positive reinforcement for the good grades or attendance. Not everyone here thinks it’s positive — but most kids do. Can’t you just see the little bookworm going up to the cashier with the report card? Come on, it’s all good

  17. HRHKingFriday says:

    Well, seeing as the Florida schools have their funds tied up in subprime investments, I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg.

  18. Mayor McRib says:

    I was a fat kid with a bad report card. I had to earn my happy meals through whining and tantrums. It’s much easier than extra reading.

  19. Squeezer99 says:

    so its ok when pizza hut advertised on the report cards?

  20. PenguinBlue says:

    AnneCA: I noticed the “2 or less absences” right away. Ugh.

  21. liquisoft says:

    Good job! Here’s some free obesity, on us!

  22. Raignn says:

    Funny, I’m more pissed off that they are actually advertising on REPORT CARDS than who did it. Seriously, what’s next?

  23. spinachdip says:

    @K-Bo: Of course, when the message is that “McDonald’s is a treat for good deeds”, that subconsciously raises the value of McDonald’s from just another dining option to a special occasion. Why do you think McD’s and BK’s promote birthday parties so much? Because they want to implant the association between nasty yet irresistable burgers (at least for me) and good times.

  24. spinachdip says:

    @Hossofcourse: “positive reinforcement” doesn’t mean what you think it means.

  25. scarletvirtue says:

    @Mike_: Same here

  26. Beerad says:

    The problem isn’t the “we’ll give you free crap food for good grades” part, it’s that McDonald’s advertising is plastered on the report card itself. I want my kids (and everyone else’s, for that matter) to go to school to learn things, not to be subtly indoctrinated into good little fast food consumers. They should give Ronald a little tag that says “School Nutritionist” — that would be the icing on the cake.

  27. mexifelio says:

    At least they didn’t have the Hamburgler pass the cards out during lunch time.

  28. royal72 says:

    as a concerned parent, i demand warning labels on all junk food, just like they have on cigarettes, cds, and hot coffee.

  29. K-Bo says:

    @spinachdip: I can see where you are coming from, but the end effect is up to the parents. Mine taught me that treats aren’t for everyday, and I can count the times I eat non-subway fast food in a year on one hand. But some people will consider it a treat and decide they have to treat themselves every day. Then again, with that kind of entitlement altitude, they probably can’t afford anything other than McDonald’s because they are too busy trying not to have their houses that cost 2X what they can really afford foreclosed on.

  30. SaraAB87 says:

    They do similar things at my cousin’s school (currently) and frankly it sickens me. They give out coupons for free McDonalds for good grades, good behavior perfect attendance etc..

    The arcade tokens are a much better idea except there aren’t any arcades around here that have this promotion, its a good idea provided you don’t eat at the arcade and they will probably get more excercise at the arcade then they do at home.

  31. sonichghog says:

    @SaraAB87: But sureley someone will moan about how Video Games are bad for kids.

  32. sonichghog says:

    @K-Bo: Wasn’t there a list on this site a few weeks go showing how bad the non fast food menues were for you.

    I think there was some pasta dish out there that would make eating 2 big macs look like the healthy choise.

  33. Murph1908 says:

    I dislike this mainly for the advertising creep, not for the healthiness of the item advertised.

    Is it wrong for me to reward my child with some ice cream for hard work and success? I think not.

    It is my responsibility to teach my child that ice cream is a treat. Or that McDonald’s is not a healthy meal, but fun to have on occasion.

  34. HRHKingFriday says:

    @sonichghog: yeah, but arcades aren’t as bad. Most of them have basketball hoops and other games that at least require you to stand up for an hour or so.

  35. spinachdip says:

    @K-Bo: The funny thing is, I stopped eating fast food because it’s so damn expensive. These days, I stock up on frozen meals from Trader Joe’s for when I’m too busy/lazy.

    I actually don’t disagree with you on parental responsibility, but that still doesn’t make it right for schools to sell themselves to the highest bidder and allow them to exploit kids who are more susceptible to promotional tactics like this.

    Food makers who target children claim, “Our advertising doesn’t have any effect on obesity. We just put out what the kids want and the parents buy.” But then I wonder, why are they spending billions on advertising if it’s not really up to them?

  36. howie_in_az says:

    When I have kids I hope I don’t reward their good grades with diabetes.

  37. mopar_man says:

    I had Book It! when I was younger. I’m not fat and never have been. I see no problem with McDonald’s offering something similar. I have a problem with idiotic parents feeding their kids fast food 5 out of 7 nights and blaming someone else for their kid(s) being fat.

  38. Buran says:

    You know, there’s this thing called free choice. You don’t HAVE to buy things that are advertised at you. Try some personal responsibility instead of making something someone else’s fault. Do I scream bloody murder every time there’s a Mcdonalds’ ad on TV? Is it the network’s fault for advertising them? No. I just don’t have to eat there if I don’t want to.

  39. silvanx says:

    I don’t know what’s sadder… that even school report cards are now branded, or that schools are so underfunded they have to resort to sh*t like this.

    I guess the fact that McDonalds would stoop this low would be sad to, but I guess my expectations were already pretty low on that front…

  40. SwampAssJ says:

    Back in elementary school, a B or better rewarded you a wheel of coupons. This ranged from a free game of bowling and laser tag to free personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut and Free fries from McDonalds. Taco Bell gave out free cinasticks.

  41. dmc says:

    I think the bigger outrage here is the fact that a public school doesn’t have enough money to print a report card and has to resort to funding from a corporate giant.

    Personally I don’t like it, but it looks like it’s necessary in this case with tight funding. I agree with those above who say it teaches a lesson that doing well will earn you the occasional treat/reward as long as the parents reinforce this line of thinking when taking their children to claim it.

    Sidenote, I’d like to hear from the libertarians out there. Isn’t this exactly what you want?

  42. K-Bo says:

    @mopar_man: Exactly, I had book it, and I graduated high school as a 102 lb bookworm. But that’s because I have a mom who was addicted to prevention magazine, and fed healthy food 98% of the time. 10 Years now since I left the house and I’m 106lbs because in general, I don’t even crave junk food. Even when I do eat junk, I don’t normally finish it all, because it sits so heavy when you are used to healthier foods. Wasn’t easy for my parent to raise us this way, took more effort to make a healthy meal than pick up a burger. But every time another one of my uncles gets diagnosed with Diabetes, I’m thankful for the way my parents taught me to eat.

  43. vex says:

    Wait, so McDonald’s was lying when it said it didn’t advertise to kids? SHOCKING!

  44. MYarms says:

    Are you surprised? This IS Florida we’re talking about here. The state with one of the highest dropout rates in the country. Next they’ll be bribing kids with money to stay in school.

  45. Shadowfire says:

    @silvanx: Did you miss the rest of this thread where those of us in school 20 years ago were getting coupons, too? Reading Comprehension 101 ftw.

  46. AD8BC says:

    Good God.

    let them eat their damn happy meals.

  47. drjayphd says:

    @R3PUBLIC0N: Photoshop? I just had to look really close.

    And you’ve gotta admit, at least Chuck E. Cheese has the good sense to keep their ads for this program inside the restaurants.

    @spinachdip: Seconded on Trader Joe’s. I hear there’s this thing about cooking for one’s self, but due to pack rat parents, I’m totally unfamiliar with the concept.

  48. shades_of_blue says:

    I think it’s a pretty cool incentive. My school district never offered anything like that as a kid. But I’d rather see Coldstone as a sponsor, that McDs.

  49. silvanx says:

    @Shadowfire: Yes I did miss that. Doesn’t change the fact that this is a new low.

  50. Kezzerxir says:

    I can’t barely remember what elementary school was like. Anyone else with me?

  51. LiC says:

    @mopar_man: I loved Book It!

    The major prob I have with this is that they’re advertising on an official paper from the school district. It doesn’t look official, it looks like a McDonalds ad. I’d be calling the district to find out what the deal is (And claim that McDonalds is a religious cult and the school district shouldn’t be endorsing them).

  52. spinachdip says:

    @Kezzerxir: I remember they taught me proper grammar.

  53. mrspaz says:

    @dmc: I can assure you that this wasn’t done because the Seminole county school district is hurting for money. I do plenty of work up there, and the place is stuffed to the gills with multi-million dollar homes. In fact it’s generally a selling point for real estate here to be within the Seminole school district; it has a reputation for (generally) good schools.

    I cannot imagine why the district sought or allowed this endorsement. I can only speculate that perhaps a McDonald’s franchisee sits on the board or the PTA.

  54. BugMeNot2 says:

    Reward yourself with a triple bypass, from being a lardass!

  55. quagmire0 says:

    I don’t know about everyone else, but I’M LOVIN’ IT!




  56. Lordstrom says:

    @MYarms: Bribing? I call it due compensation. Children spend an absurd amount of time in school with little or no motivation.

  57. Bradley Niven says:

    That’s not a report card. I agree that McDonalds needs to stay out of our childrens lives but claiming this is an actual report card makes this a bad report. its a normal 9 x 11 sheet of paper with no grades on it made in the style of an old fashioned report card.