McDonald's wants Illinois bank to stop Beanie Baby promotion

By John Schmeltzer

Chicago Tribune; 20th May 1997

It didn't take McDonald's Corp. long to let the teeny-tiny Oxford Bank in Addison know the great-big restaurant chain in Oak Brook was unhappy.

The bank, with two branches and assets of $200 million, is allegedly going to damage the good name of McDonald's, with nearly 20,000 branches around the world and annual revenues of more than $10 billion.


By giving a Teenie Beanie Baby to people who open a child's savings account with $1,000, McDonald's said in a letter sent by facsimile Monday morning after reading about the bank's plans in Sunday's Tribune.

Undaunted, the bank said it is going ahead Tuesday with plans to offer the wildly popular stuffed animals that McDonald's stopped offering in a recent promotion because it was overwhelmed by a surge of customers seeking the collectibles.

The bank purchased the little animals from collectors through ads posted on the Internet and in magazines.

McDonald's lawyers were not amused by the bank's acumen.

"Your attempt to use for your own benefit, a promotion which has been conceived and popularized by McDonald's constitutes a misappropriation of the advertising value and goodwill of McDonald's and unfair competition under the laws of the State of Illinois," wrote the restaurant chain's legal counsel from Altheimer & Gray in Chicago.

"Your actions may seriously damage McDonald's goodwill, which it has obtained through its investment of time, money and effort in its Happy Meals/Teenie Beanie Babies promotion," the letter continued, threatening legal action if the bank proceeded with its plans.

But Bruce Glawe, Oxford's president, said the bank isn't going to be cowed by the hamburger chain, adding that Patti the Platypus, Pinky the Flamingo, Seamore the Seal, Quacks the Duck and the six other Teenie Beanie Babies will be given out to people opening a Kid's Account, as planned.

In fact, about a dozen accounts were opened Monday, a day ahead of the official start of the offer as the bank was inundated with 100 calls for additional information about the giveaway.

"We think we're within our rights," said Glawe, saying the program is no different than if the bank had purchased tickets to a Cubs game and offered the tickets as an inducement for people to open an account.

Admittedly, there is probably more demand for a Teenie Beanie Baby than a Cubs ticket, and that's why the bank won't back down.

"We don't expect to get anything from (McDonald's)," Glawe said. "There are no legal grounds here at all."

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