McDonald’s Monopoly: Marketing Obesity or Harmless Fun?

It’s that time of year again where I go to McDonald’s and plan out what food I’m getting to maximise the amount of monopoly stickers that I win. A free student McFlurry takes precedence over a free burger, as you get two extra stickers on the ice cream there’s so more chances to win prizes. There’s a lot of effort just to win a free apple pie which no one actually wants.

If you don’t know what I’m taking about, I’m referring to the McDonald’s Monopoly, a competition that runs annually in Spring. How it works is each item of food from McDonald’s comes with a sticker on in the layout of a monopoly set. If you collect a coloured set, you win a prize. The prizes range from small basic meal wins to a whopping 50k cash prize. There are also instant wins. If you type the code from the sticker in online, you can win all sorts of prizes. It’s basically a huge franchised raffle and for every entry you have to buy some food.

Everyone loves the campaign, which is why it is also so controversial. This year, the government has called for the campaign to be banned on the grounds that it promotes obesity. MP Tom Watson told the BBC that the game is a “danger to public health” and further labelled it “appalling”. This is because it encourages the public to order more food than necessary and promotes junk food.

Healthy living is a huge concern at the moment with 26% of UK adults obese and a further 35% classified as overweight. With the NHS already overburdened, campaigns that promote unhealthy living certainly aren’t helping.

“McDonald’s could also do more to cut down on the amount of junk food consumed by slashing the amount of food instant wins handed out”

From my experience, the government aren’t wrong. This clever marketing technique does make me visit McDonald’s more often than I normally would, and I’m someone who has a fair amount of restraint. Further, when I’m inside and ordering I seem to order far more than normal just for the chance of winning a prize. It’s gambling really which people are easily hooked to with the nasty side effect of a large number of calories.

On the flip side though, there is plenty of awareness now about obesity for the public to make their own choice. It begs the question: at what point does the government begin to impinge on the public’s autonomy with these restrictions? The government can only do so much, but to make restrictions on campaigns and increased government restrictions also seem to suggest that the public are incapable of being responsible.

A ban on the campaign in total seems harsh, but maybe some guidelines and warnings from McDonald’s would help. McDonald’s could also do more to cut down on the amount of junk food consumed by slashing the amount of food instant wins handed out and substituting for a better and healthier alternative.

Miriam Thompson

Featured image courtesy of Mike Mozart via Flickr, no changes made to image. Image license can be found here.

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