McDonald’s is under fire once again for their advertising to kids practices. A new study, reported in BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health, finds that the fast food giant has been focusing on kids in lower middle income countries with more Instagram posts, price promotions and child friendly marketing than the company does in wealthier nations. The study is titled: Comparing McDonald’s food marketing practices on official Instagram accounts across 15 countries and was funded by an NIH grant. The study’s conclusion is that Social media advertising has enabled McDonald’s to reach millions of consumers in lower-middle-income and upper-middle-income countries with disproportionately greater child-targeted ads and price promotions in lower-middle-income countries.
Such reach is concerning because of the increased risk of diet-related illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, in these regions, the report states. The researchers captured all the screenshots that McDonald’s posted on those Instagram accounts from September to December 2019. They quantified the number of followers, ‘likes’, ‘comments’ and video views associated with each account in April 2020. They used content analysis to examine differences in the marketing techniques. Results The 15 accounts collectively maintained 10 million followers and generated 3.9 million ‘likes’, 164, 816 comments and 38.2 million video views. They identified 849 posts. The three lower-middle-income countries had more posts than the five upper-middle-income countries and seven high-income countries.
Approximately 12% of the posts in high-income countries included child-targeted themes compared with 22% in lower-middle-income countries. We have seen these studies and reports for decades in the US and around the globe – its no surprise that McDonald’s as well as other fast food brands target kids. What I would have liked the researchers to do is go a step further – analyze those 164 thousand plus comments – what do the kids or their parents have to say – I’d love to see how many are positive, how many negative and are there any recommendations for new healthier better-for-you items? Are there any brilliant marketing ideas to get kids to eat less and healthier? Then with that information, lets figure out how to use the very effective social media platforms to nudge eating behaviors over towards the better for you side.