03 McDonald's The Meal - Rio Ferdinand, Happy Meal box and Pudsey

McDonald’s UK Removes Happy Meal Smile to Spark Emotion-Focused Conversations

The campaign, created by Leo Burnett UK and Ready10, features the voice-over of football legend and broadcaster Rio Ferdinand

By Creative Salon

The latest initiative from McDonald’s UK, in partnership with Leo Burnett UK and Ready10, titled ‘The Meal’ initiative removes the iconic smile from millions of Happy Meal boxes to prompt families to discuss emotions during Mental Health Awareness Week.

The multi-channel campaign follows research commissioned by McDonald’s which reveals that almost half (48 per cent) of UK children feel like they must be happy all the time, even if they do not want to be.

McDonald’s has created and distributed 2.5 million limited-edition Happy Meal boxes to over 1,400 McDonald’s restaurants across the country. Selected locations will also receive stickers showcasing an array of emotions children experience, allowing kids to communicate how they are feeling by placing stickers directly onto the boxes.

Louise Page, head of consumer comms and partnerships, at McDonald’s, says: “We know how important it is to help stimulate open conversations about mental health in families, and through this change to our Happy Meal box, we hope many more families are encouraged to kickstart positive conversations around children’s emotions and wellbeing.”

The campaign has been developed in partnership with BBC Children in Need, and a dedicated hub has been designed to provide families with access to a whole host of resources to encourage candid conversations on emotional well-being with children. The hub will be available to access via a QR code on the limited-edition Happy Meal boxes, as well as via the McDonald’s website and social media channels.

Fozia Irfan OBE, director of impact and influence at BBC Children in Need, says: “Mental Health Awareness Week is the perfect opportunity to shine a light on the vital impact we can make on children and young people’s mental wellbeing and we are thrilled to be working with McDonald’s to provide the necessary support parents and families may need to start the conversations with their children.”

Launching the campaign is a short film directed by Jake Mavity, through Rogue Films. The two-minute film showcases the importance of children openly expressing the range of emotions they feel. The film begins with a range of children reacting to being handed an expressionless Happy Meal box. The children choose from a range of expression stickers to place on their Happy Meal box, prompting each child to explore and discuss their own emotions. The film will run from May 13th to 19th.

Andrew Long and James Millers, executive creative directors, Leo Burnett UK, said: “Happy Meal is all about bringing families together, and to do that it’s important we’re open with all our emotions. By using the most famous children’s meal in the country to deliver this message, we hope this populist campaign will reach and resonate with families across the nation, and foster important conversations around children’s mental health.”

The voiceover for the film was provided by football legend and broadcaster Rio Ferdinand, who was recruited by Ready10 to front the campaign as someone familiar with having to tackle conversations around emotions with children. Drawing on his own personal parenting experiences, Ferdinand participated in photography, media interviews and social media amplification to support the campaign, as well as providing the voiceover for the launch film.

Kate Addy, managing partner, Ready10 says: “The Happy Meal smile is one of McDonald’s most iconic brand marks and we knew suggesting it was removed from the boxes would be a big ask, but we were delighted when McDonald’s also saw the potential to positively impact millions of children with this important campaign. We know the insight at the heart of the idea is one that will resonate with families across the country, and it’s been a privilege to create something which will encourage children and parents to be more open about their emotions.”

A comprehensive media plan across OOH, social and SFVOD will support the creative, with a variety of parenting influencers recruited to provide their own viewpoint on family conversations around conveying emotion.


Campaign Title: The Meal

Client: McDonald’s UK

Head of Consumer Comms and Partnerships: Louise Page

Communities and Partnerships Manager: Melodie Richards

Consumer PR Manager: Charlie Madsen-Pilcher

Comms Agency: Ready10

Managing Director: David Fraser

Managing Partner: Kate Addy

Campaign Lead: Tom Stroud

Director: Laura Coleman

Senior Creative Strategist: Dana Hanna

Social and Digital Account Director: Nader Ghahreman

Account Director: Francesca Martin

Account Manager: Immy Omole

Account Executive: Sophie Donne

Account Executive: Chloe Phillips

Designer: Aman Malhi

Creative Agency: Leo Burnett

Chief Creative Officer: Mark Elwood

Executive Creative Director: Andrew Long & James Millers

Senior Creative: Helen Rogerson

Senior Creative: Owen Hunter Jenkins

Creative Director: Hayley Power

Creative Director of Design: David Allen

Designer: Danny Flint

Designer: Charlie Crosthwaite

Motion Design Director: Carmen Perez

Motion Designer: Milan Mezi

Project Director: Siobhan Mulcahy

Agency TV Producer: Georgia Morris

Deputy Chief Strategy Officer: Tom Sussman

Planner: Hamish Cameron

Business Lead: Steph Bates

Account Director: Charlotte Crawley

Senior Account Manager: Sian Davidson

Account Manager: Brittony Kelly

Production Company: Rogue Films

Producer: Fred Bonham-Carter

Director: Jake Mavity

Editor: Flaura Atkinson

Post-Production Company: Stich Editing (Offline), Black Kite (Online + Animation)

Audio Post-Production Company: Sine Audio

Child Psychologist: Dr. Maryhan

Media Agency: OMD UK

CRM: Armadillo


LinkedIn iconx

Your Privacy

We use cookies to give you the best online experience. Please let us know if you agree to all of these cookies.