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Havin’ Fun With Supersize Stereotypes: McDonald’s Online Marketing CampaignBy Vanessa Keen

From the Author: This is a paper written for English 105 in Fall of 2007. The class focused on American media, and the assignment was to study and analyze a recent marketing campaign. When choosing a subject, I recalled hearing something about McDonald’s “racist websites.” Upon looking further into these half-baked sites, I knew that this particular campaign was too bizarre to leave untouched. In my paper I write about McDonald’s “Havin’Fun” campaign, three micro sites targeted towards specific racial groups. I also cover the history of target-marketing, and the effects such oversimplified representations of race have on the consumer.

From the Faculty Nominator: Vanessa wrote this essay for my English 105 Honors course. The class focused on the media, with the last third of the semester spent investigating advertising and working on a writing assignment that asked students to analyze an advertising campaign. Vanessa chose a little noticed McDonald’s Internet ad campaign targeting minorities titled “Havin’ Fun.” When Vanessa first pitched her paper topic to me, I thought she had mistaken a cluster of websites spoofing McDonald’s for actual McDonald’s advertising. Her description of the clunky and blatant stereotyping of Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics in this campaign didn’t fit with the idea of McDonald’s as a mega-corporation with millions of advertising dollars at its disposal. But a quick check of the McDonald’s homepage confirmed that these three “micro-sites”(one for each of the ethnicities targeted in the campaign)were indeed the products of the McDonald’s marketing campaign. Vanessa handles her topic skillfully. She combines analysis of this strange and disturbing ad campaign with a discussion of its implications for race in advertising. And she does so in a tone that often backfires but clearly works well here. Vanessa’s often sarcastic and disbelieving tone feels like the only rational response to McDonald’s transparent trafficking in racial stereotypes.

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