From June 6 through July 3 in McDonald's restaurants in North America, and then rolling out across the world, McDonald's "Kung Fu Panda" Happy Meal program will treat kids with a toy of one of eight animal characters from the film each time they purchase a Happy Meal.
In addition to offering Kung Fu master games and related offline activities for kids (like a new hip-hop panda dance), online promotions tying in with the "Kung Fu Panda Party" promotional theme will encourage kids to learn about pandas and their environment. For instance, the site (www.happymeal.com) will offer a "panda-cam" enabling kids to view real pandas in their natural habitat.
All of this ties in with McDonald's support of Conservation International, and specifically its support of CI projects in China aimed at protecting panda habitats.
The Happy Meal campaign is being supported by a Leo Burnett-created TV commercial (available in 23 languages) featuring two child Kung Fu experts vying for the last Chicken McNugget left from a Happy Meal.
With all of the focus on children's nutrition and bad press about fast food these days, McDonald's is also making a point of emphasizing healthful elements in the promotional Happy Meals, including fresh, peeled apple slices served with low-fat caramel dipping sauce and low-fat white and chocolate milk jugs served in child-friendly, themed containers.
"You can talk all you want about the health issue, but one thing you can't say about McDonald's is that they're not extremely savvy marketers," comments Robert Passikoff, president of the Brand Keys branding consultancy. "This kind of multifaceted campaign, including a philanthropic tie-in, doesn't just happen. They're masters at integrated, coordinated marketing."
Interestingly, however, while some of the real-life inspirations for the movie's characters (snow leopard, tigress) are carnivores, the characters themselves are not portrayed eating other animals ... even in the form of Chicken McNuggets. "Everybody is vegetarian, even our predatory characters--otherwise, it got too weird," movie co-director John Stevenson told HowStuffWorks.com.
Apparently, product placement does have its limits.