Consumerism

McDonald's France accused of targeting children with hidden advertising

The consumers’ association UFC-Que Choisir said McDonald’s France had been "discreetly calling on the support of young influencers to encourage their audience of children" to consume McDonald's products.
The consumers’ association UFC-Que Choisir said McDonald’s France had been "discreetly calling on the support of young influencers to encourage their audience of children" to consume McDonald's products. AFP/Archives

A complaint has been filed against McDonald's France, which stands accused of using social media influencers to send out hidden advertising messages to children.

Advertising

The consumers’ association UFC-Que Choisir on Wednesday said the fast food chain was guilty of "deceptive business practices" after it spotted forbidden and undisclosed “partnerships” in programmes intended for young people.   

In a statement, the NGO said McDonald’s had been "discreetly calling on the support of young influencers to encourage their audience of children" to consume McDonald's products.

At the centre of criticism were YouTube videos of kids having fun by reproducing a McDonald's restaurant at home "with impeccable McDonald's packaging". 

Other videos show them unwrapping surprise packages of toys to be found in Happy Meals – “all without mentioning the existence of a partnership", UFC-Que Choisir said. 

'Easy targets'

"The duplicity is all the more serious given the targeted community is composed of children, who are less equipped than adults to recognise hidden advertising messages."  

Concealing advertising has been considered a deceptive commercial practice in France since 2010, with product placements banned altogether in television programmes intended for children. 

UFC-Que Choisir said the “betrayal” by McDonald's ran even deeper given it was a signatory of an EU promise not to place food adverts in programmes aimed at kids.

However social networks, the NGO added, were like “a legal no-man's land” that was taking advantage of self-regulation rules.

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