McDonald's Video: Nutrition Advice or Infomercial?

McDonald's has created a 19-minute video, "540 Meals: Choices Make the Difference," which the company says is an educational video about nutrition. Others call it an infomercial or, as a Fortune writer put it, "a slickly produced McDocumentary." McDonald's encourages showing the film in schools and provides a Teachers Discussion Guide to help. 

The star of the film is John Cisna, an Iowa teacher who lost 60 pounds on a McDonald's-only diet. (Remember Super Size Me?) Cisna reminds me of Subway's Jared, which didn't work out too well in the end. 

McDonald's is hosting McTeacher's Nights, where teachers, students, and parents serve McDonald's food, and part of the revenue goes to a school fundraising campaign. Since 2013, McDonald's has contributed more than $2.5 million to schools from these nights. 

Educators in a group called Corporate Accountability International call the practice "exploitative." In a letter to McDonald's, organizations and individuals write, in part, 

"It is wrong to enlist teachers to sell kids on a brand like McDonald's whose core products are burgers, fries, and soda. Marketing junk food to children is a harmful practice. We are in the midst of the largest preventable health crisis in the U.S. -- one that is spreading throughout the world, and that increasingly affects children. If this trend is not reversed, many children will be burdened with diet-related diseases like obesity and Type 2 diabetes, affecting their heath for life."

Discussion Starters:

  • What's your view of McDonald's video and the McTeacher's Nights? 
  • What principles of persuasion does the education group use in its letter to the company? Try to identify examples of pathos, logos, and ethos.