McDonald's Stops Advertising On Elementary School Report Cards

McDonald’s has decided to stop branding report card envelopes in a program that gave kids in Florida free food as a reward for good grades after a backlash from parents concerned about exploitive marketing. Teport cards came in an envelope (pictured, click to enlarge) telling kids to check their grades and redeem a free Happy Meal if they got all A’s and B’s or got good marks in “Citizenship” or attendance. The jacket also showed a smiling Ronald McDonald and mentioned McDonald’s several times.

Critics charged that McDonald’s was seeking a backdoor way to infiltrate kid’s minds after agreeing, amidst the obesity epidemic furor, to stop all advertising aimed at children under 12. Companies know that the earlier you can implant marketing messages and build brand affinity, the stronger bonds you forge. It looks like friendly educational outreach, but it’s really about training a future army of consumers. Why else would they need to showcase their branding so prominently all over the report card?

McDonald’s Ending Promotion on Jackets of Children’s Report Cards [NYT]
PREVIOUSLY: McDonald’s Advertises On Elementary School Report Cards


Edit Your Comment

  1. TCameron says:

    Naomi Klein must be lovin’ this.

  2. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    They banned advertisements to kids under 12? Not that I watch children’s tv, but I never noticed this. I remember growing up with Grimmace, Hamburglar, the Fry Guys, all running around like a variation of Sesame Street. I also remember eating a lot of McDonlads as a child. >_<

  3. RenardRouge says:

    What’s wrong with offering rewards for students’ achievements? It’s not like the kid is going to drive down to McD’s and order…his parents play a big part. Oh wait, I forgot, parents leave it up to the schools to raise their kids, but when the schools show any signs of parenting, the parents raise a huge stink.

  4. photomikey says:

    “McDonalds”, or as some people like to refer to it, “a McDonalds”. After all, why would you put the truth in the headline when you could get more pageviews without it?

  5. DanR2 says:

    Read the NYT article, PHOTOMIKEY.

  6. cosby says:

    I didn’t see anything wrong with this. When I was in elementary school pizza hut did pretty much the same thing although it was with reading. You read your 1 book a month you got a free personal pan pizza. If the class as a whole met the goal(done per class room)for the year then pizza hut gave the class a pizza party where they send pizzas and drinks to the school for the class.

    I’m sure some would bitch at is as a marketing stunt but it worked. Most of the kids in my class really wanted that pizza party. It made them work harder so they could have it.

    Pizza hut got some props and extra business for doing something good for the school. No hard was really done. Kids eat at McDonalds. I’m sure a bunch of them in that elementary school loved this idea.

  7. brent_w says:

    Personaly I’d be pissed that I’m out of a free happy meal.

    What the hell is wrong with these parents?
    Free Food is Good Food.

  8. coan_net says:

    Even though I understand why some would not want McDonald’s to “advertise” on report cards like this – but I LOVED the idea of a company spending money to do something for the school…… leaving the school more money to actually educate their children.

    So now the schools will take more of their little money to print and send out report cards…. probable at the lose of a teacher or new books.


  9. rewinditback says:

    as a kid i used to be part of the pizza hut read for a free personal pan pizza program. i ate fast food. I’m not obese, or overweight. My parents instilled this magical thing called “smart decision making” in regards to my diet… you know, the thing a normal parent should do.

    i think its a bizarre marketing ploy… but you can’t say that the ad itself makes kids fat. Parents need to step up to the plate and say ” eat your veggies, join a soccer team, moderation”.

    maybe its just me?

  10. PropCulture says:

    We used to get free tacos from Taco Johns for each A on our report card. I understand that kids are impressionable, etc., but at some point parenting has to come into the equation. I saw a metric ton of McDonald’s commercials growing up, but my parents didn’t let me eat it every day. Or ever week. Hell, we were probably “allowed” to have it a couple of times a year.

  11. rewinditback says:

    Its called a “reward system” for a reason. not a “meal replacement program”… nobody is mashing burgers and fries down these kids throat other than their parents. the people with the dollar to CHOOSE where to eat.

    i can’t stress enough its a REWARD… would parents piss and moan if a theme park gave them a free ticket?!

  12. JustAGuy2 says:

    I’m more concerned by the fact that the Seminole schools were happy sending out a report card referring to “2 or less absences” – it’s fewer, not less.

  13. stephenjames716 says:

    I used to get pizza hut/mcdonalds reward cards at my library for reading books during the summer. I also played video games, watched tv and ate junk food. I am now 27, live a healthy life style and don’t blame any of my faults on fast food or video games.

  14. rewinditback says:

    i get worked up when Americans can’t accept that THEY did something to themselves. Why is it a big surprise that if you consume 5 times your suggested caloric intake that you’ll balloon up to borderline morbidly-obese lines? It’s no fault of McDonalds (or any fast food chain) – they never claimed to be your decision maker, fridgerator and grocery store. They claimed to be a fast food chain.

    I’d personally like to file a lawsuit with the elevator company for making me lazy. and the escalator. its only a floor, but you make it so tempting and convenient to just sail up your heavenly smooth passage to the next level! who’s with me! class action!!!!!

  15. Tracy Ham and Eggs says:

    When I was a kid we had the same Pizza Hut deal. 3 A’s on a report card and we got a free personal pan pizza. (the arcade across the street also gave tokens for every A). That was when we got to go to Pizza Hut as a kid. It was a reward for us, and yeah, it instilled the idea that junk food = reward for something exceptional (which in my opinion is a good thing, and really cuts down on my fast food trips).

  16. RvLeshrac says:

    I’m with the others. This is a *REWARD* program that *REWARDS* kids for *DOING WELL* in school -AND- being in attendance/not acting like an ass.

    I guess that should all be in the past tense now. Since most of the parents don’t give a rat’s ass about how their kids do or act in school, this just means that more of them will go back to disrupting class and failing to learn anything at all.

  17. Daniels says:


    There is nothing wrong with it. “They’re giving my child a free meal for an A? HOW DARE THEY!!!”

  18. DallasDMD says:

    The problem is that McDonalds is terrible food. Even Pizza Hut is better by comparison.

    Why not a free Subway sandwich or something else healthy?

  19. B says:

    When I was a kid, my parents took me out to dinner for getting on the honor roll. We usually went someplace better than McDonalds, though. Well, not much better, as I got to choose the restaurant, and I didn’t exactly have a sophisticated palate back then.

  20. dgcaste says:

    I taught my kids that if they come back with bad grades, I’d beat the crap out of them. It worked!

  21. jamesdenver says:

    I’m for banning all advertising in schools period. Shame on any school district who sells out their kids minds for money.

    Especially to companies like Bus Radio: []

  22. RandoX says:

    What’s a “Teport” card?

  23. MDSasquatch says:

    I have a new Razr Phone on the way for my 13-year old. It snowed in Maryland yesterday, so I called home to remind him “I sure hope the FED Ex guy can make it to the house with the package”.

    When I got home the drive and sidewalk were already shoveled. I cannot imagine him doing the same for a smooshed up burger and a bag of fries served up by a scary clown.

  24. rewinditback says:

    @ TANDOX


  25. FMulder says:

    So sad that even schools in this country can’t financially function without corporate branding….

    And interesting to see the ‘young folks’ who are so used to having even their report cards corporate-branded — wonder how that affects their perception of consumers – corporations, etc?

    Beyond the issue of free food and what nutritional content, I am wondering how it shapes the minds of these kids to view corporate tactics? Definitely helps create a pro-corporate population….

  26. NotATool says:

    Did anyone read the NYT article? Why is McDonald’s bad but Pizza Hut was good for 10 years?

    “The local McDonald’s restaurants replaced Pizza Hut as a sponsor of the incentive program. Pizza Hut had sponsored a similar promotion for a decade, as part of a national campaign to encourage children to read.”

  27. FMulder says:

    ..and with them all sluggishly functioning on highly-processed, sugared, salted, chemical’ed food, their brains are a little fuzzier, they are a little lazier, and even more likely to be conquered…

    I think aliens are running these corporations and this is early phase of a planned planetary take-over.

  28. rewinditback says:


    so instead of fatty burgers you’re serving him a heaping spoonfull of cancerous radiowaves? Hope he has the sperm-count to produce children. but yeah… you’re right. we should lobby for our tax dollars to go towards cell phone rewards and not a 2.99 happy meal 2 x a year paid for by a private corperation.

  29. kelptocratic says:

    Only in Florida…

    When I was a kid* Chucky Cheese’s would give you free crap for good report cards. Pretty shameless attempt at getting the folks to bring the kids in for some garbage pizza and disease ridden ball pits.

    *”Back then we wore onions on our belts, as was the style at the time…”

  30. dgcaste says:

    @rewinditback: I hope you’re kidding. If you’re not, are you some kind of moron?

  31. picantel says:

    I’m in the Seminole county school district and I can tell you my kids were really excited about when they get their report cards because they got to go to McDonald’s. They were always more interested in the toy that came with the happy meal than they were with the food anyway.

    It’s still the parent’s responsibility whether they want to let their children have a happy meal or not. We as parents have to be the adults and make the decisions for our children. How is this any different than the reading counts rewards that Pizza Hut sponsors, or the family nights at a fast food restaurant? Everyday children are bombarded with advertising for this and that, I fail to see where one happy meal is going to corrupt a child’s mind and lead them to a life of obesity.

  32. bunnymen says:

    @cosby: Yeah, I loved Pizza Hut’s Book It program. But I was a fat bookworm, so…yeah.

  33. rewinditback says:

    Mainly kidding – but a little bit of a moron, sure?

  34. Curiosity says:

    Funny, McDonald’s gets harassed for trying to do the right thing.

    I know when I was a kid, I saw the nutritional breakdown for the food at McDonald’s. The ironic thing here is that schools are meant to educate, and McDonalds was supporting that (and has been). It assumes that its consumers have minds and are rational actors unless proven otherwise.

    Here people are saying either the children are stupid or cannot learn. Try teaching the children (Gasp!). [] or even [] .

  35. picantel says:

    The article is incorrect. I live in Seminole county. The entire program was ruined by ONE bitchy whiny woman. Btw, I see my wife posted above under this handle. The article says there were parents i.e. plural which was untrue.

  36. CumaeanSibyl says:

    BOOK-IT! I remember Book-It.

    Apparently Pizza Hut is still doing it, too: []

    I tell you what, they better not cancel Book-It. I want one of these shirts.

  37. Squeaks says:

    In elementary school, the band teacher always gave out free small fry coupons whenever we got the top score for the music lesson (practiced, well done, etc.).

    We never actually used very many of them

  38. satoru says:

    The main problem is funding for schools. Do you think that the school did this just for fun? They do it because they’re desperate for any kind of money due to underfunding.

  39. ludwigk says:

    @DallasDMD: a happy meal a month will have little appreciable effect on a childs diet. You can get a happy meal with a fruitcup and milk instead of coke and fries. Teach your kid healthy eating choices, and don’t feed them fast food every day.

  40. meanwalrus18 says:

    they did this at my elementary school when i was a kid…oi vaie….if we had known then what we knew now.

  41. meanwalrus18 says:

    @DallasDMD: a happy meal a month will have little appreciable effect on a childs diet. You can get a happy meal with a fruitcup and milk instead of coke and fries.

    I have to disagree that the fruitcups any “better” it’s probably chalk full of high fructose corn syrup…its probably on the scale of the soda in sugar content

  42. TMurphy says:

    I could see complaining about it being printed right on the report card. Perhaps a McDonalds flyer could come in the same envelope, or maybe it can come in a separate mailing, or the kids are given them in class at the end of the term.

    I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see “your grades are brought to you by McDonalds”. I’d rather see a separate sheet with lots of colorful pictures of the food showing what I can earn.

    The prize requires good attendance (you probably can’t get good citizenship or good grades in elementary school if you aren’t there). If all schools would still have gym class, kids would have to be at least somewhat active to get the prize anyways. Maybe good effort in gym class should get you something.

    Sorry to ramble on, but studies (still going on) are showing that students taking math class right after gym class do better than those who take math before gym. (These are your below average to average math kids, if you think it may factor in). The abolishment of gym class in many schools is likely hurting us intellectually and physically.

  43. UpsetPanda says:

    @TMurphy: That’s it, start the spam early, when they’re young so they can get used to it and look forward to it in the future.

  44. selectman says:

    How am I the only person on here who thinks any such programs as this are a terrible idea? How is it a good thing to sell out our unsuspecting children to marketers eager to hook them before they know they are even being hooked?

    If our schools are underfunded, maybe our tax priorities aren’t straight. Some would argue that throwing more money, public or private at the system won’t solve the problems. In any case, accepting corporate money from entities whose interests are driven by profit, not educational success, is not the solution.

  45. DougBB says:

    Begin irony

    OMG, teh evil corps are corrupting our youth!!! Seeing an advertising icon like Ronald McDonald will turn all the (think of the) childen into fat, underproductive slugs!!! I as the parent have no responsibility whatsoever for the food my elementary-age children eat, nor any influence at all over how they view the world!!!

    End irony

    Is McDonalds doing this to hopefully, eventually, sell more hamburgers? Of course they are. But this incessant hand-wringing over the effects that advertising has on children is just completely without perspective or logic.

    Dear parents who don’t want their kids to eat McDonalds,

    Don’t take them there.


  46. selectman says:

    @DougBB: Fantastic straw-man argument. This isn’t about taking your kids to McDonald’s. It’s about keeping those with ulterior motives out of our schools. The fact that they happen to be “evil” corporations is irrelevant. What IS important is that those corporation’s interests do NOT align with the educational interests of you and your child.

    Just as you have the right to feed your child what you see fit, other parents have the right to expect that the education system does not include any entity that would be exploitative of their children. And why else would McDonald’s do something like this other than to exploit a fresh Market of soon-to-be consumers? It wouldn’t make business sense if nothing was in it for them.

    I’m all for McDonald’s acting in its own corporate interests and trying to market its products in any legal, ethical way it can. It’s up to us to make sure our government isn’t a willing partner in McDonald’s marketing campaigns.

  47. RvLeshrac says:


    I’m anti-gym because it is typically HIGH activity, which various people just can’t do.

    I couldn’t do forward-rolls in elementary school. When I did one after being forced (gym teacher noticed me sneaking to the back of the line), my back popped, and I had to wave my arms up and down like an idiot so that it would manually move my diaphragm, and so I could breathe, on my way to the nurse.

    “Team”-sports teach “teamwork,” except for the fact that only those who excel at them are ‘accepted’ on a team. Those that don’t have particularly good hand-eye coordination or are a little different (The dyslexic kid, the kid with a helmet, the kid who didn’t come out of the womb with the ‘right’ body type) are ostracized, teaching them that ‘team’ is just another word for ‘everyone in the world is an asshole,’ giving them the stunted social development and tainted worldview that often leads to psychological problems or murder.

    Then, of course, you have games like dodgeball – which is a fine game among friends, but not ‘fine’ when some parents teach their kids that it is OK to beat the holy hell out of someone because they looked at you. Also not fine since some kids are naturally smaller than others. The 10 year old with a moustache does not need to be hurling something at the 9 year old who is a foot shorter than the other kids.

    Nothing wrong with normal exercise, but that’s not what ‘gym’ consists of. If we can have a ‘gym class’ that consists of a basic aerobics program daily, that’s fine.

  48. RvLeshrac says:


    “What’s in it for them” is that the parents will pay for food while the child is getting less-expensive food for free. It also builds the brand image – ‘McDonalds cares about your child’s education.’

    Not everything is about brainwashing the kids. The kids don’t have any money, anyway. You make money by getting to the _parents_ of said kids.

  49. Hello_Newman says:

    These corporations will do anything to market to children. Get them when they are kids and they will buy as adults.

    Many years ago I worked for Pizza Hut and we had a school lunch program for elementary and middle schools. We delivered every day 30 large pizzas at basically our cost and the school made a 100% markup. The whole point was to get kids buying Pizza Hut at a young age, at the catering cost I don’t think we made diddley off actually selling them, maybe a $1 a pie when you take food/labor costs into account. Also free delivery of 30 pies a day with no tip, oh joy!