On 23rd May 1996, the McDonald's Corporation held its annual Shareholders' Meeting at Hamburger University, Oak Brook, IL.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee, three-time Olympic medalist was at the meeting to lend fake credence to McDonald's assertion that its junk food can be eaten without impairment to human health or athletic ability. To emphasise the point, Joyner-Kersee said that her favourite menu item is the double cheeseburger. Mike Quinlan (Chairman and Chief Executive) announced that McDonald's is to be a world sponsor of every Olympic Games from now on. Quinlan also unveiled McDonald's 10 year global marketing alliance with Disney, saying "every movie they come out with, everything they do, McDonald's will have a marketing presence." Make room for Ronald, Mickey.
McDonald's hailed some of its other "achievements", such as its deals with Chevron, Amoco and Gulf Oil, and the very recent launch of the "Arch Deluxe" burger aimed at adults. Ronald McDonald was pictured, dressed in a business suit, at the launch event in Toronto. A commercial for the Arch Deluxe shown at the meeting, demonstrated that the marketing of this burger is aimed just as much at teenagers as adults. Two adolescents are pictured - the male is playing with his food (picking at the tomato and lettuce) while the female is saying "It's true, girls do mature faster than boys." The message is straightforward: you should eat this burger to emulate adults.
During the question and answer session, Mike Durschmid of the McLibel Support Campaign got up to the microphone and spoke for several minutes. He asked the following questions:
The BSE question was handled by the Board members like a hot potato, being thrown from one to another. Quinlan and Jim Cantalupo said that Mad Cow Disease is not a problem. Andrew Taylor (from the UK) said that British beef is safe, although no-one is buying it. Taylor said the company will go back to using British beef once public confidence is restored. Tom Albrecht said that the US beef supply is safe, that there is no supply link with the UK, that everything is USDA approved, and that no animal parts are allowed to be fed to the cattle supplying McDonald's with beef (a lie). Quinlan then refused point-blank to say anything about the McLibel Trial, making the excuse that "you get one question".
- "Will McDonald's stop accepting beef from US suppliers who continue feeding their cattle rendered animal parts? This is the cannibalistic behaviour that caused Mad Cow Disease (BSE) and consequently the outbreak of the fatal human disease CJD in the UK. The US is poised to have a similar catastrophe, but it looks unlikely that the government will outlaw the practice of feeding cows and other animals to cows.
- Also, how much money has the Corporation spent on the McLibel Trial? Is it in the best interests of the shareholders to continue this humiliating and disasterous law suit? Mr Quinlan said a year ago that it was "coming to a wrap soon" but it's now the longest civil case in British history and is still continuing at an estimated cost of $16,000 per day.
- Is it true that the Corporation is so worried about the way the case is going and the bad publicity the company is receiving that on two occasions members of the US Board of Directors have flown to London to meet the McLibel Two in a failed attempt to negotiate a settlement to the case?"
Another person asked the Board about McDonald's connection with rainforest destruction. Quinlan replied "We have not, do not, and never will take beef from rainforests." Semantics aside (the question is whether McDonald's use beef from cattle reared on ex-rainforest land, nevermind all the other direct and indirect effects of cattle ranching and beef consumption on the world's tropical forests) - this statement clearly makes no reference to the recent testimony and other evidence in the McLibel Trial that completely nails once and for all the Corporation's lies distributed to the public worldwide about never using any beef raised on ex-rainforest or recently-cleared ex-rainforest land.
Another questioner asked how McDonald's can meet today's health concerns. Quinlan replied by producing more burgers like the Arch Deluxe which contain lettuce and tomato! And they're just about to produce another potato menu item!
Another shareholder asked a question regarding McDonald's competitive situation. Quinlan replied "We don't want to become paralysed with fear about what may or may not happen. We're going to go right to the edge here as a risk taking company. We're going for the throat here."
At the end, shareholders were invited to mingle and chat with the Board members. However, McDonald's security guards and an off-duty Oak Brook police officer steered Mike Durschmid away from Quinlan & Co. refusing to let him speak with or get a note to Quinlan. Then, for no legitimate reason, and despite the fact that hundreds of other shareholders were still present in the building, he was forced to leave. Meanwhile (before, during and after the meeting), a small number of protesters held signs and leafletted outside.
"Walt Disney, the entertainment group, and McDonald's, the fast food chain, yesterday announced what may rank as the biggest global marketing alliance yet devised.
The deal gives McDonald's exclusive rights to use characters from Walt Disney films in its promotions for the next 10 years starting next January. It applies to all 93 countries in which McDonald's operates and will provide the partners with publicity worth several billion dollars.
Burger King said it was "disappointed" that its relationship with Disney was ending. Disney is believed to have preferred McDonald's as a long-term marketing partner because of its wider presence outside the US.
Mr Alan Hickok, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, said the move would bring significant benefits to McDonald's. "From a competitive standpoint it's very savvy because it removes an opportunity for another fast food chain to capitalise on the strength of Disney's box office hits."
Fast food chains typically use films in their promotions by giving customers toys based on film characters when they buy a meal. Until now, rights to Disney productions have been negotiated on a film-by-film basis."
"...McDonald's will also have the right to open new restaurants in Disney's theme parks in Florida and Paris, and will sponsor the new Dinoland attraction at Disney World in Florida. The promotion will reach 33 million customers worldwide."
"Businesses are targeting pupils with educational packs which are biased, plastered with company logos and encourage children to eat unhealthy food, a survey from the National Consumer Council claims.[McSpotlight note: McDonald's produce an Education Pack - however, McDonald's were not mentioned in this article]
The council says there has been an explosion of commercially sponsored resources for schools in the last few years - around 5,000 for technology alone - with industry spending about 300 million pounds a year.
It is issuing new guidelines for teachers, governors and parents after finding a worrying number of flaws in educational packs.
The NCC survey showed:
Cadbury's 'World of Chocolate' resource pack for 11- to 12-year-olds says: "Chocolate is a wholesome food that tastes really good. It is fun to eat at any time of the day and gives you energy and important nutrients that your body needs to work properly."
- Some firms are using sponsored material to persuade pupils to eat unhealthy food;
- Other companies are plastering their name and logos all over the materials;
- Some are using the materials to extol the virtues of their own products;
- Some fail to mention basic arguments against their activities.
'Energy and the Environment' from British Nuclear Fuels Ltd, fails to mention "the one key drawback of nuclear waste, that it takes up to hundreds of thousands of years or more to decay and become safe."
Materials from the Meat and Livestock Commission contain no recipes which do not use meat and include "Ideas for turning pizzas into Meatzas".
David Hatch, the council's chairman, said that commercially-sponsored teaching packs could be invaluable at a time when school funds were scarce but argued for a debate on the rising tide of US-style commercialism in our classrooms to ensure commercial sponsorship does not take the place of state funding for core education activities."
In the United States, he said, pupils were bombarded with advertisements throughout the day, sometimes on compulsory television programmes which included advertising. "We want to protect British classrooms from these excesses. The classroom should be a place of learning, not a free-for-all for business interests."
A spokesman for the Halifax Building Society said: "The educational value of our materials for schools far outweighs any advertising benefits to us. There is a high take-up by schools of the pack."
"It was a case of two chicken McNuggets too far. A McDonald's employee, who, like a latter-day Oliver Twist, wanted more than her lunchtime allowance of six battered bits of poultry, has been sacked for gross misconduct.
The 17-year-old who worked in the Drive Thru branch in Strood, Kent, appealed further up the hierarchy, but was given her cards.
Could she possibly have been hungry? A spokeswoman for McDonald's doubted it. "She would have been entitled to a McDonald's extra value meal - chicken nuggets or a quarter pounder or a Big Mac and fries and a drink," she said. "She should have taken an order of six nuggets. She took an order bigger than that."
Clearly she liked the food but McDonald's have a rigid food policy, which entitles each employee to roughly the same value meal once a day, worth just under 3 pounds. "Everybody gets the same food allowance - it's very egalitarian," the spokeswoman said.
"We are talking about losing my job over a few pennies," the former employee said."