Happy Meals and Old Spice Guy
Globe Columnist / July 25, 2010
IN THE laudable quest to fight childhood obesity, it’s hard to get kids to exercise, control their portions, and hold the salt. It’s easy to blame the Happy Meal toy. This spring, officials in Santa Clara, California banned toy giveaways with kids’ fast food meals. Last month, the Center for Science in the Public Interest threatened to sue McDonald’s, saying the toys are a deceptive marketing practice.
Of course, there has been backlash, and not just from kids who fear they might miss out on “Last Airbender’’ figurines. A group of competing Save-The-Happy-Meal-Toys Facebook pages has sprung up, each with a fan base of nostalgic hipsters. The Happy Meal, it turns out, isn’t just a bundle of adorably-packaged calories. It’s a bundle of adorably-packaged calories that represents childhood.
There’s something to be said for the power of marketing, the ways it can influence us even when we think we’re too smart and too cool. Notre Dame University marketing professor Carol Phillips says that when her students brag that they aren’t susceptible to advertising, she points to their shoes, their hats, and their computers.
And she tells them that marketing isn’t limited to ads; it’s packaging, store placement, associations. And entertainment, too, as in last weekend’s brilliant Old Spice social media campaign, in which the suave and shirtless “Old Spice Guy’’ posted YouTube responses to questions asked through Twitter. He offered image advice to President Obama. He helped a guy propose to his girlfriend. He might be the most beloved man in America, even though we know he’s trying to sell us body wash.
It’s too early to know if we’re buying or not, though some old-school marketing gurus have noted that sales of Old Spice are down. For all of its power, advertising has its limits — and ads are a reflection of the marketplace as much as they’re an influence. Ad agencies do assiduous research into what people already want; “Old Spice Guy’’ came about because Procter & Gamble understood that women buy most of their husbands’ body wash, and presumably want it to smell manly.
McDonald’s is buffeted by market forces, too, which is why the fast food giant has taken some baby steps into the wholesome-food game. One way the chain turned sluggish sales around in the early 2000s, Phillips notes, is by putting a few salads on the menu.
Campaigns against obesity have affected the Happy Meal, too: In 2006, the Los Angeles Times reported that Disney executives were balking over Happy Meal tie-ins, in part because they feared an association with fatty food. Today, the main Happy Meals web page mentions fries and soft drinks, but only shows pictures of lowfat milk and apples.
Is it bait-and-switch advertising? Sure. And McDonald’s could be far more aggressive in pushing apples over fries in actual stores. But at this point, are parents really unaware that french fries aren’t a health food?
The anti-Happy Meal types prefer to paint parents as wimps, powerless against a corporate marketing campaign. One anti-Ronald McDonald polemic, issued by a group called Corporate Accountability International, says McDonald’s “undermines parental values’’ and creates “a fundamental restructuring of the family dynamic.’’ The evidence: “Every time a parent has to say no to a child, it’s another let down, another way that a parent has to feel bad about not making that child happy.’’
Well, my kids don’t like it when I tell them they can’t play with knives, but I don’t let it get to me. I also understand that the secret to survival in an ad-heavy world isn’t avoiding marketing, but understanding it. Kids can be taught that what’s on an ad isn’t necessarily what they need. And the power of ads can be harnessed for good. If a YouTube video can make us talk about Old Spice, the right viral campaign could boost the market power of the nectarine.
A healthy lifestyle, after all, has clear appeal, which a clever marketer could surely harness. Today, kids are lured by the Happy Meal in all of its weight-adding splendor. But after a few years, isn’t it likely they’ll want to look like Old Spice Guy, instead?
Joanna Weiss can be reached at email@example.com.
THE ASSIGNMENT IS TO WRITE A READER RESPONSE AFTER READING HAPPY MEALS AND OLD SPICE GUYINSTRUCTION ON HOW TO WRITE A READER RESPONSE IS POSTED BELOW
What Is a Reader Response?
A reader response is a summary, analysis, and evaluationof a reading. You will write and post your responses in the discussion board.
By taking your time analyzing and responding to these readings you will:
- develop your critical reading skills;
- develop your ideas about writing;
- develop your knowledge of the essay mode and theme;
- and in the process, become a better writer.
In the reader response to themodeessay, you will analyze the organization, techniques and ideas of the sample essay (from Back to the Lake).
In the reader response to the themeessay, your focus will be on analyzing the author’s ideas to help you facilitate discussion about the unit’s theme and possible essay topics.
Overall, your reader response will be a blend of critical analysis and personal opinion.
When Do I Write a Response?
How Do I Write a Reader Response?
A reader response should consist of three parts:
- summary and analysis
- evaluation and personal responses
- questions about the reading
Part 1:Summary and Analysis
In part 1, you should briefly summarizethe essay and thoroughly analyzethe organization and writing techniques used in the essay (note: do not spend a lot of time on summary — your classmates have done the reading as well).
- Part one will reflect your understanding of the structure and the ideas of the read essay.
- Part one should be approximately 1-3 paragraphs.
- Refer to specific passages of the essay. Use quotes and page numbers where applicable.
- Use the following questions as a guide for your summary and analysis.
- What is the author’s main point? What is the essay about?
- What modedoes this essay model? (only for the mode reader response for each unit — narration, comparison and contrast, cause and effect analysis, or multimodal)
- How does the essay reflect the characteristics of the rhetorical mode(only for the mode reader response for each unit) narration, comparison and contrast, cause and effect,or multimodal)
- How does the essay connect to theunit theme? (only for the theme reader response for each unit — The shaping of identity, Understanding my culture, Business and economics, Community and diversity)
- How does the essay reflect the characteristics of that pattern of development/mode?
- What is the thesis or controlling idea? How does this thesis idea reflect the characteristics of the unit mode or theme?
- How did the author organize his or her ideas to support the thesis?
Does the author use effective strategies to convey his/her ideas? (topic sentences, transitions, vivid details, strong vocabulary, other techniques)
What is the author’s view/perspective that he/she is trying to convey?
What is the author’s purpose in writing the essay?
Overall, how does the author communicate to you as a reader?
Part 2:Evaluation and Personal Responses
In part two of the reader response, you will evaluate the reading.
- Share a more personal reaction to the sample essay by explaining what you likedabout the reading and what you thought was successful or interesting.
- You should also write about what you did not particularly value about the reading. You could include things that made the reading hard to follow or just not interesting. You should write about your ideas and reactions to the sample essay/readings.
- Part two should be approximately 2 paragraphs.
- Include quotes and paraphraseswhere applicable.
You can use the following questions as a guide:
- What surprised you?
- What made you feel uncomfortable?
- What did you think of the author’s perspective?
- Can you relate to the experience or point of view discussed in the text?
- Did this reading make you think differently in any way or reinforce something you already knew or believed?
Part 3: Questions About the Reading
- In part three of the reader response, pose questionsto your fellow classmates to kick off a discussion of the essay.
- Part three should consist of 2-3 questions.
Your questions can ask about:
- problems or issues the author raises;
- conflicts you see;
- stylistic choices the author makes;
- your thoughts or your classmates’ thoughts about some specific part of the text that you think should be discussed further.
Don’t worry if you do not have answers to your questions.J
Just be sure the questions encourage your classmates to go into deeper study of the essay.
What About the Format/Presentation of the Reader Response?
Your reader response should be carefully crafted using
- a thesis statement
- topic sentences
- effective transitions
- appropriate sentence structure
- If you quote from the essay, use the appropriate citation format (cite passages using quotation marks, page numbers, and/or the author’s last name).
- proof-read your response before you post it to the discussion board!