Avertising aimed at Children

a. Many of the advertistng campaigns undertaken by the plaintiffs are aimed at children. The artificial character 'Ronald McDonald' and the fantasy world 'McDonaldland' used in advertisements by the plaintiffs are well known to children and are intended to appeal to them. In the United Kingdom, a director of the Second plaintiff has acknowledged that most television commercials went out in the afternoon when children were watching, and that it was pressure from the children which brought their parents into McDonald's restaurants.

b. Children are led to believe that it is part of normal life to eat at McDonald's and take part in the 'McDonaldland' experience and that they are missing out on part of that normal life if they do not take part.

c. A study carried out by McDonald's headquarters in the USA in the 1970's found that in three out of four families it was the children who decided where to eat.

d. A number of the company's advertisements have been challenged by the relevant authorities: (See also pleadings elsewhere)

e. In 1986, television advertisements in the USA for Chicken McNuggets stated that the product was made from 100% chicken. In fact the product contained ground up chicken skin, breading and was fried in beef fat. The New York State Attorney General complained about the advertisements and subsequently McDonald's dropped the advertisements.

f. In or around October 1989, McDonald's had to give the Australian Trade practices Commission a written undertaking not to re-use full page advertisements which had incorrectly stated that their packaging (made with HCFSs) was 'ozone friendly'

g. UK, November 1990. The advertising standards authority ruled that a McDonald's advert was misleading which claimed that chemicals only played a very small part In the company's food.

h. UK, April 1991. The Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint against a McDonald's advert in 'Our Schools' magazine (aimed at 5-11 yr olds) headlined "Go Green - McDonald's and the Environment' The Authority found that the advert had wrongly implied that if the company ended its practice of using foam packaging, a paper based alternative would not be 'fully recyclable'. It also found that it was misleading for the company to refer to the 'recyclability' of their packaging if they themselves were not engaged In recycling the material. The company admitted that they had only had a small and temporary pilot recycling scheme at four Nottingham stores.

i. In or around April 1990, a court in Finland banned a McDonald's television advert, stating that it exploited the loneliness of a child and could give the impression that McDonald's products can replace friends or lessen loneliness. The advert showed a boy unhappily surveying what was to be his new home, and his despair turning to joy when he saw a McDonald's across the street.

j. In or around February 1994, Government regulators in Korea considered that McDonald's promotion of children's 'Happy Meals' specials was pressurising them to spend more money. Officials interviewed company executives concerning this.

k. In or before December 1985, McDonald's UK president Paul Preston, when questioned about how the company had managed to grow so fast in the UK, admitted that 'Most of our television commercials went out in the afternoon when the kids were watching. It was pressure from the kids which brought their parents into our restaurants'

l. USA. In or around 1990. Geoffrey Guiliano, the actor who portrayed Ronald McDonald, stated after leaving the position: 'I brainwashed youngsters into doing wrong. I want to say sorry to children everywhere for selling out to concerns who make millions by murdering animals'


1. Of:
"Further or in the alternative, the words complained of in their natural and ordinary meaning are true in substance and in fact. In so far as it may be necessary the Defendants will rely on Section 5 of the Defamation Act 1952.

Particulars of justification will be served separately."

Specifying, in relation to each plaintiff, the defamatory meanings which the Defendants seek to justify.


The Defendants seek to justify the following meanings in respect of each plaintiff.

That the First and Second plaintiff use a number of gimmicks such as striped staff uniforms, flashy lighting, bright plastic decor and happy hats, to disguise the fact that the food products are 'low quality' . These food products are designed to look and taste exactly the same in any outlet anywhere in the world. Further, that to achieve this conformity, the First and Second plaintiffs use a number of techniques, one of which is the application of chemicals to lettuce leaves.

Nearly all the advertising undertaken by the First and Second plaintiffs is aimed at children. In particular, children associate burgers and chips with clowns and circuses following the wide use by the First and Second plaintiffs of the 'Ronald McDonald' personality. The effect of such advertising is that some children then think it is the 'norm' to go to McDonaids and that they are not 'normal' if they do not go there. Further, that it is sometimes difficult for parents to distract a child who is insisting on certain types of food, such as, for example, McDonald's food. To this extent children often 'pressurise' the people looking after them. Further, that part of the attraction for children in going to one of the restaurants operated or franchised by the First and/or Second plaintiff is that they are 'living out the advert'. This can take precedence in a children's minds over their appetite and need, the cost to their parents and the nutritional value of the food that they consume there, encouraging overeating of 'junk' food leading to an unbalanced diet. Further, the food is at best mediocre and at worst can be 'poisonous' in that it is high in fat, sodium and sugar content and low in fibre and that a diet of this nature is linked to heart disease, cancer etc., and that it contains many additives some of which can be harmful to children.