supersize me

McDonald’s Launches In-House Videogames, Winners Get a Lifetime Supply of Body Image Issues

Is this supposed to be a chicken made of fries? That is fucked. up.

In the good ol’ days of McDonald’s, you’d finish your quarter pounder, pull on your sweaty tube socks, and go play in the glistening, brightly-colored, slippery-with-sweat tunnels of the huge McDonald’s Play Place.

Not anymore. In one Singapore location, young McDonald’s diners can play with “The Happy Table,” a McDonald’s-themed smartphone game that’s only playable within the confines of the McDonald’s restaurant (PLAY UNTIL YOU’RE HUNGRY FOR MORE FOOD, KIDS!). What is this sorcery, you ask? The restaurant’s tables are embedded with NFC stickers, so when a kid waves her smartphone over the table, “The Happy Table” game automatically launches on her screen. Read More

Off the Media

Hail Corporate: The Increasingly Insufferable Fakery of Brands on Reddit

offthemedia

The best kind of marketing messages are the ones that don’t seem like marketing messages. Because it means that the viewers’ defenses are down.

That may be why the front page of Reddit has become an irresistible target for feel-good messages about brands and businesses. Despite the community’s penchant for skepticism, Costco, Taco Bell (in fact, most of the Yum! Brands) and a handful of startups have all made very conspicuous appearances on Reddit in the last year–not via paid ads, but through what at first glance appear to be organic and genuine discussions by Reddit users.

But are they? Could they really be? As someone responsible for my own fair share of marketing stunts, I am suspicious and cynical—I’ll disclose that right up front. I very well may be seeing signs of undue influence where there is only rule-bending behavior, but then again, I’ve also begun getting requests from clients about the possibility of orchestrating Reddit machinations. So because of this, and because of what I’ve observed behind the scenes, I’ll come out and say it: what’s going on Reddit these days has media manipulation written all over it. Read More

Linkages

Booting Up: Another Zynga Exec Bids Adieu

Another rainy day in NYC. (Photo: wired New York)

Zynga has lost another exec. The struggling company’s chief game designer Brian Reynolds has resigned. [VentureBeat]

Sorry, Facebook: Twitter is now the fastest-growing social platform in the world. No data yet on who owns the universe, though. [GlobalWebIndex]

Netflix wants to become the next HBO. So, lots of shows with gratuitous nudity and cursing just ‘cuz, “It’s premium cable, man.” [The Verge]

McDonald’s is the new study hall. Hey, it’s not like the library has french fries. [Wall Street Journal]

Startup visas may soon become a thing after the President endorsed them in a recent speech. But what about all those lawless seafaring incubators? [Huffington Post]

Privacy is Dead

Fed Plans New Law to Guard Internet Privacy for Children

Not sure if he's running towards or away from the food (Photo: bioethics.net)

The Federal Trade Commission is looking to change regulatory lawsthat that protect children’s privacy on the Internet. Although it’s legal right now, a slew of apps and popular websites collect data and pictures from young users. In the most cringe-worthy example, pictures of children that were uploaded to a “get in the picture with Ronald McDonald” game in were kept by McDonald’s in directories that were publicly available to anyone who wanted access to them. McDonald’s tells the Times that they’ve now “blocked public access to several directories on the site.”

The new laws say children’s websites would be required to obtain parents’ permission before tracking kids around the Web for advertising purposes.

But while government restrictions may help protect innocent children, it’s hard not to feel that the responsibility (and the biggest hope for keeping kids safe) lies with their parents. After all, children don’t only stick to apps directed to their demographic. Read More

Think of the Children

McDonald’s Accused of Shadily Marketing to Kids via Online Games

Just hanging out, maybe collecting some emails. (Photo: flickr.com/paul_everett82

Ronald McDonald probably isn’t the first person who comes to mind when parents think “internet dangers,” but you probably don’t want your kids getting unsolicited emails about the glories of french fries, either.

Well, bad news: The New York Times reports that several advocacy organizations have filed a complaint with the FTC, alleging that Micky D’s and four other companies–Viacom, General Mills, Subway and Turner–are exploiting a legal loophole in their online marketing to kids.

In true corporate fashion, however, these companies aren’t doing anything so straightforward as simply asking for 9-year-olds’ email addresses. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act in fact requires sites to get parents’ “verifiable consent”  before they can collect the personal info of kids younger than 13. Read More