Yesterday, as I stood in line at Max waiting for a hamburger made with real Swedish beef, I was struck by a revelation. Much like the Heliga Birgitta, it seemed as if life's very mysteries had been revealed to me. It all started as a woman was ordering two Max Boxes for her kids. And they got a toy. Of course. And then it hit me. I had no idea what kind of toy the kids were going to get. Because I hadn’t seen any ads for toys in Max Boxes, or Happy Meals for that matter.
And then the mysteries of Sweden were revealed to me. I remembered that Sweden has a law against targeted advertising towards children. Granted, I’m not a child, so I don’t exactly fall into that target market anyway, but still. It dawned on me that the lack of advertising directed at children was conspicuous for that very reason, the lack of.
As I stood waiting for my hamburger made with real Swedish beef I started thinking back to the ads McDonalds used to always run in the US advertising the next toy in their Happy Meal. That just doesn’t happen here. Sure they still give away the toys. And I know this for a fact because I am cheap and Happy Meals are an inexpensive way to feed myself when I’m in a pinch. But there aren’t commercials explaining that next week Happy Meals will be giving away Hot Wheels!
Instead, the McDonald’s Happy Meal ads in Sweden focus on their being healthy options like milk, carrots, or apples. Or the newest phenomenon. The option of getting meatballs with your Happy Meal. Swedish meatballs. Again, the style of these ads were clearly directed at adults, a little kid doesn’t care about carrots. They do care about Hot Wheels.
I have yet to see a single ad for a Max Box though. Although they do sell hamburgers made with real Swedish beef. Maybe Max Box has resigned themselves to not even toeing the line with this law, while McDonalds has yet to acquiesce. Maybe they are just hoping for some collateral rub-off when they advertise the Happy Meals even though they do a good job of targeting the parents. I don’t know.
And I also don’t know how I feel about this. A part of me actually worries that it cheats children out of learning how to discern, distinguish, dissect all the ads that people are bombarded with every day. Some would argue that children are just too susceptible to advertising. I think we might be giving copywriters and marketing coordinators too much credit and not giving nearly enough credit to the kids.