It’s not unusual for companies to “sponsor” posts by bloggers–it’s actually a pretty cool model for helping popular writers get paid, while allowing retailers to target their advertising in a really smart way. But McDonald’s is going above an beyond the average sponsored post; in exchange for positive articles, the fast food giant is promising bloggers (many of them moms) gifts and parties. Apparently, leaving it to Twitter didn’t help the company’s newfound “grassroots” appearance enough.
McDonald’s is doing pretty well, financially speaking–despite a few disappointing reports, their profits have seen gains, based largely on the fact that what they offer is cheap, crave-worthy junk food that, despite knowing better, consumers will continue to eat. But that success is looking increasingly short-lived…just like their average customer.
Following the announcement of their Olympics-themed mega-store (and a few other PR problems, like the aforementioned failed Twitter campaign), McD’s has gotten some pretty negative press, and they’re trying all kinds of things to combat it, including playing up their quality–without actually changing anything–and going “artisan” with stories of their down-home, super-rural farm supplies. Unfortunately, people aren’t really buying it.
So rather than sink large sums of money (think hundreds of thousands of dollars) into yet another large-scale advertising campaign, they’re instead turning to a channel they discovered a few years ago, which is a much cheaper way to get good word-of-mouth: the blogs. For a fraction of the cost, they can shower a team of 400 bloggers with gifts and parties and other stuff, including training on how to use Facebook to rep the company.
Of course, this isn’t that much different than other companies who pay or send gifts, in exchange for a kind word or two–except that, as the conversation about national obesity (and, specifically, childhood obesity, which can lead to juvenile heart disease and diabetes) heats up, more and more people looking critically at the reasons behind our expanding waist lines (and failing organs, and fattened livers, and clogged arteries). And fast food manufacturers like McDonald’s, who continue to make vague and often misleading health claims (like “natural!” or “healthy“), are squarely in the crosshairs.
Which makes a decision like using bloggers–many of them moms, which McD’s LOVES to use as a litmus test of “health”–pretty questionable. Instead of continuing to try to remain pervasively within the public consciousness, why isn’t McDonald’s putting their money and efforts into reducing the amount of fat, sodium, and sugar in their food? And, if their food really is healthy and wholesome and good for people, why do they have to work so hard to convince people of it?
It’s not always easy to find ways to turn blogging into a lucrative (or even remotely monetary) endeavor, so it’s not surprising that many online writers will take what they can get–even if it means shilling for a company that’s generally regarded as unhealthy and part of the problem.
Are you a blogger? Would you accept gifts and parties from McDonald’s, in return for some positive press?
Image: a 1,360 calorie meal, courtesy of McDonald’s