McDonald's to replace Happy Meal toys with books

In this Jan. 20, 2012 photo, the McDonald's logo and a Happy Meal box with french fries and a drink are posed at McDonald's, in Springfield, Ill. McDonald’s Corp. reports quarterly earnings on Monday, July 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Kids today have it too easy with their iPads and their backpacks filled with Nintendo 3DSXL games. They're allergic to everything and they can't do simple math and they're fragile and barely literate, thanks to all these whosits and whatsits keeping them from getting learned in school and playing outside.

The last bastion of hope for American culture is a cardboard lunchpail filled with chicken nuggets that acts as a Trojan horse to deliver books to kids everywhere.

McDonald's has announced plans to replace the toys in the Happy Meals with paperback books for two weeks at the beginning of November. The move is meant to coincide with National Literacy Day, the one day of the year when it's important that people know how to read and write.

Since Ronald McDonald fancies himself a Roald Dahl, now, the books are going to be self-published and will feature the company's characters, but not the one's you're familiar with. The Hamburglar and Grimace can screw off because it's 2013 and these kids need new characters to help them learn to eat healthy WHILE GOING THROUGH THE DRIVE THRU AT McDONALD'S.

The characters and storylines were created by Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett, which handles the chain's family and kids marketing. (Omnicom's DDB Chicago is McDonald's lead creative agency.) TV spots and other advertising will support the book promotion. Leo Burnett declined to comment.

"We think that this is a fun and engaging way to give a nutritional message to kids," said Ubong Ituen, VP-marketing for McDonald's USA. "This is really the first step in a larger book strategy, and our intent is to continue over several years."

One of the books is about a goat who eats everything, but eventually learns to eat healthier. One is about the world's smallest dinosaur who eats all of her vegetables to grow up big and strong.

Though we joke about kids learning to eat well or read at a fast food restaurant, McDonald's is making more than just a small commitment with this two-week promotion. All told, they're expecting to give away 20 million of these books. Ad Week puts that in perspective:

To put McDonald's 20 million run into perspective, consider one of the most popular young-adult lines in recent years: post-apocalyptic trilogy "The Hunger Games." (The eponymous first book came out in 2008, followed by "Catching Fire" in 2009, and "Mockingjay" in 2010.) In 2012, the year "The Hunger Games" film was released, the trilogy sold 27.7 million print and digital copies -- 15 million were print books, according to Publisher's Weekly. So McDonald's is set to give away in a two-week promotion 5 million more books than what "The Hunger Games" trilogy sold last year in print. [Ad Week]

Check out the full piece over at Ad Week to read up on the McDonald's promotion, its intended impact, and the characters that are supposed to trick kids into learning while they chow down on fried potatoes.