Sour Combo: Shrek’s “Apples & Milk” At McDonalds

shrek050807.jpgOk, gang, let’s reiterate this branding nightmare of mixed messages one more time…Monster movie promos+junk food tie-ins=chubby cherubs.

Nothing wrong with Shrek promoting apples and milk (though that combo is sour under ANY circumstances, eww!) BUT: if McDonalds is going to be a poseur for guiding kids toward healthy choices, they need to eliminate the beastie from fatty fries and McFlurries and only have his mug show up as a “good for you” gig.

That’s counter-marketing 101. IF you are trying to motivate and persuade using advertising incentives that appeal to kids and shift behavior, THEN you ONLY make those gifties avail if kids opt for the healthy fare! Period.

Otherwise, you’re cannibalizing your own efforts, your PR spin is transparent, and you’re just branding as usual slapping the green guy’s mug on anything that holds liquid. Sadly, that’s exactly what they’re doing…

Starting Friday, this mega-media global blitz (“biggest ever” they say) will appear in 100 countries, no doubt gleaning all kinds of corporate kudos praising MickeyDs for “caring” and “trying to do the right thing” to curb childhood obesity. Chyea. Pshaw.

If they were serious about trying to induce behavioral change using bribes (er, excuse me, toys and collector cups) they’d set up the promo for ‘earned compliance’ by eating fruit or drinking milk, not enabling kids to snag the goods with any ol’ fatty Happy Meal or huge chug-a-lug of soda.

Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating and marketing professor at Cornell University said, “this is a great experiment and to be too critical of it would ‘disincentivize’ companies to further experiment.” Oh fergoshsakes. There’s no experiment here! An EXPERIMENT might be:

Will kids shift to healthier food in order to get a freebie tchotchke?

Would kids bypass the shakes-n-fries to get a “collectible cup” by ordering only a Happy Meal of “Apple Dippers, all-white-meat chicken McNuggets, and low-fat milk?”

Does rampant consumerism and the love of freebies out trump kids’ love of junk? (argh, don’t get me started down THAT path)

Anything less is not an experiment, it’s plain ol’ brandwashing…and in this case, they’ve brought a whole new meaning to “greenwashing” too. Definitely leaves a sour taste. Bleh.

If McDonalds really wanted counter-marketing to work (they’re already hosed by brand erosion since Shrek is all over tons of junk food sending mixed messages and rendering him ineffective) then here’s a simple campaign checklist:

Free collectible Shrek glasses that kids might want? Fine. Offering the freebies on anything BUT the healthy item being promoted? Not fine.

Interactive nutrition games and a website where children can earn points for digital rewards by logging in “how much physical activity they have done?” Fab. Talking Shrek-themed Happy Meal toys in eight languages for any food item? Not fab.

Shrek teaming with HHS (Dept. of Health and Human Services) and Ad Council to combat childhood obesity? Fantastic! Shrek simultaneously promoting junk food on other branded goods, diluting the message, confusing the heck outta kids, and negating the entire purpose? Silly beyond words.

McDonalds spending megabucks to scam trust for their brand under the guise of shifting kids to low-fat milk and apples? Curdled, sour, and rotten to the core.

p.s. The HHS blunder of choosing Shrek as a spokes-ogre for anti-obesity while he’s stumping for sugary snacks shouldn’t surprise anyone…

This is the same government arm that had a great stealth anti-obesity program targeting tweens with Verb Yellow Ball, then, just as it was starting to spread virally among kids, get some buzz and really take-off? They canned it.

Wish they’d fund OUR counter-marketing efforts and we’d show ’em how to do it right.

HHS? Ad Council? Anyone? You listening?



  1. From what I’ve read about the the Shrek reviews, sounds like they spent more money developing the junk-food licensing then actually developing the plot.

    I loved the original Shrek (the second movie had funny bits & wacky new characters and a lot of pop culture gags, but the actual story was over run by everything around it– same thing happened in the sequels to Austin Powers). 🙁 I love Mike Myers. Such an unhealthy marketing initiative makes me sad. Cheetohs? McDonalds? M&Ms? Pooh.

    Did you kinda notice that Pirates of the Caribbean seems to be lying low? I know they’re quite a machine on to themselves, but in comparison to Shrek, they’re really quiet. And they come out at the end of the month?! Perhaps they’re waiting for Shrek to finish it’s second weekend before landblasting us landlubbers.

  2. Trust me, Pirates is NOT layin’ low…working on a story about it very soon…just a bit backlogged with all else here. Check this link as a ‘preview’ of commercialism comin’ down the pike…

    I think they got slammed for being so ‘integrated’ in their marketing to kids last round with MSN that they’re stealthily creeping into the media mix…

    Stay tuned…

  3. Here’s a TINY URL version of the Pirates/Businesswire piece, since that one ‘works’ but ran off my blog page! (oops)

  4. I agree – counter-marketing is deceitful. For example, McDonald’s is touting their new healthier salads and Happy Meals, yet just launched a new sugar and fat laden cinnamon bites dessert product. (It’s similar to how Dove appears to promote all women’s body types, but then Axe promotes ridiculous teen girl objectification – aren’t they all owned by Lever or one of those big corporations?)

  5. What did you expect from Brian Wansink? He doesn’t understand how science is done, and he’s not qualified to run the “here’s what you should eat” arm of the USDA, because he’s not a nutritionist.

  6. “(It’s similar to how Dove appears to promote all women’s body types, but then Axe promotes ridiculous teen girl objectification – aren’t they all owned by Lever or one of those big corporations?)”
    – from an above commenter

    I had to comment on this because those happen to be two of my FAVORITE commercial series of all time. and it was just too much of a coincidence not to. Even though they might SEEM at first glance to be hypocritically in contrast with one another, really both of these messages I can get on board with. I love being an axe crazed objectified teenage girl AND I also love being a real dove woman. They both feel like very deep true pieces of myself.

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