Comparing McDonald’s food marketing practices on official Instagram accounts across 15 countries

Omni Cassidy, Hye Won Shin, Edmund Song, Everett Jiang, Ravindra Harri, Catherine Cano, Rajesh Vedanthan, Gbenga Ogedegbe and Marie Bragg
BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health

This peer-review article in BMJ Nutrition Prevent & Health highlights an important area where public and private sectors need to align: brand and product marketing of unhealthy foods to children.

The study compares the social media advertising practices of McDonald’s—the largest fast food company in the world—in 15 high-income, upper-middle-income and lower-middle-income countries. Of the 849 posts that were identified across 15 accounts, the study found: 

  • The three lower-middle-income countries had more posts than in the five upper-middle-income countries and the seven high-income countries.
  • Approximately 12% of the posts in high-income countries included child-targeted themes compared with 22% in lower-middle-income countries.
  • 14% of the posts in high-income countries included price promotions and free giveaways compared with 40% in lower-middle-income countries.

The authors conclude that social media advertising has enabled McDonald’s to reach millions of consumers in lower-middle-income and upper-middle-income countries, with disproportionately greater child-targeted ads and price promotions in lower-middle-income countries. This is has potential to negatively impact the nutrition of children in these regions, and to increase the risk of diet-related illnesses. It is important that clear policies, regulations and incentives are in place and enforced to hold businesses accountable for their role in shaping children's diets, both positively and negatively. 

This resource has been peer reviewed