McDonald's Lets Mom Bloggers Into The Kitchen

With the childhood obesity issue and food marketing back in the headlines, McDonald's is launching a summer PR effort it says is in response to consumer rather than political pressure. Six moms will serve as embedded citizen reporters, covering the company from the inside.

McDonald's cites a March survey by GfK Roper Custom Research showing that nearly 90% of moms believe it's important that fast-food restaurants provide more information about the food they serve.

The six moms--of different ethnicities and from disparate parts of the country--will report to the outside world via blog and video on a McDonald's Web site for the next few months. They will be getting an insider's "Willy Wonka" view of the Oak Ridge, IL-based company, and how it chooses, prepares, and distributes food.

Through the Moms' Quality Correspondents program, the women will meet McDonald's nutritionists, chefs, ingredient suppliers, executives and others.

The scribes are also getting a look at McDonald's kitchens, menu items in development, and supplier facilities; they'll visit McDonald's beef and produce suppliers, and work a stint behind the counter. The effort runs through September.



Reports via journals and downloadable videos start today at

Robert Passikoff, founder and president of marketing consultancy Brand Keys, Inc. doubts the program will work because it isn't being delivered broadly, and because blogs aren't as strong a tool for engaging customers as, say, TV.

"Certain media types better reinforce category and brand variables and values than other things," Passikoff says, citing Brand Keys data showing that blogs generate 2% of what he calls "engagement loyalty" versus 10% for cable

"These loyalty and engagement metrics are predictive of how people are going to behave, with a strong correlation between behavior and sales," he says. "We shouldn't ignore everything we have learned in 60 years of advertising: people hear better if you yell it from the top of a hill than from the bottom of a well.

"There is a certain degree of 'Field of Dreams' approach to this kind of campaign: 'if we get real people and the real people are telling the real story, all the bad misconceptions, all the bad PR won't go away but will be ameliorated.' That's the theory," Passikoff added. " 'Mothers trust mothers, and mothers know,' so let's get a bunch of mothers, and let them write about their experiences."

This week, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent letters urging companies to follow Kellogg's decision to curtail marketing of certain foods to kids.

Tomorrow, Markey will chair a hearing on TV advertising and childhood obesity, and whether the legislature needs to step in to restrict food marketing to children on TV.

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