JOANNA WEISS’S discussion on Happy Meals (“Happy Meals and Old Spice guy,’’ Op-ed, July 25), advertising, and parenting has some great insights, but misses one major element. While the ads are an important factor, the problem with Happy Meals is the toy itself. That’s not just an advertisement, it provides repeated engagement with the company (or more important, the unhealthy food) for the child and the parent, too. The toy is a focal point for imaginative play, reemergence in favorite stories, and a tactile object for a developing set of hands — all of which is branded with the McDonald’s logo in the child’s mind and thus creates a strong positive relationship between the child and the product (the unhealthy food, not the actual toy).
This seduction through association focused on children has been increasingly problematic, which is why other countries regulate advertisements directed toward children. Sure we can argue about parenting, educating the youth, etc., but these messages are mere drops in the bucket compared with all the other messages children get from such companies; hence why infants and toddlers can identify company logos before they can read.