McDonald’s France accused of targeting children with hidden advertising

(FILES) This file photo taken on September 10, 2016 shows a McDonald's restaurant in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. McDonald's is investigating an apparent hack into its Twitter feed following a briefly-posted diatribe against US President Donald Trump, the fast-food giant said on March 16, 2017. The fake tweet offered an uncharitable appraisal of Trump, saying, "You are actually a disgusting excuse of a President and we would love to have Barack Obama back, also you have tiny hands." / AFP PHOTO / Karen BLEIER

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.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. 

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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