Case Study: Endangered Animals Happy Meal

A partnership with McDonald's Europe



Going back two decades, McDonald’s has been one of Conservation International’s (CI) longest running corporate partnerships.  The partnership primarily focused on two areas:

  • Investments by McDonald’s in CI’s conservation projects.
  • Incorporating sustainability and conservation criteria into McDonald’s food supply chain in an economically achievable way.

After 2005, however, the partnership had gone mostly quiet as much of our pilot work became operationalized.   In 2007, we saw a new opportunity to renew partnership activities by supporting McDonald’s interest in integrating environmental messaging into its communications efforts.  Because CI had established a solid record of conservation success with McDonald’s, we knew we had a good base upon which we could build a solid and authentic marketing platform.

Creating a Buzz around Environmental Happy Meals

This work debuted with the launch of DreamWorks Animation’s Bee Movie.  CI worked with McDonald’s to leverage their global Happy Meal promotion to accomplish two outcomes:

  • Reinforcing McDonald’s commitment to children’s well-being by adding environmental education to their broader messaging themes and encouraging kids to take simple environmental actions in their own lives.
  • Raising awareness around the importance of “pollinators” in a kid friendly way, and encourage support for conservation work to protect these important animals.

With our outcomes and audiences (Kids 6-10, Moms, Stakeholders) agreed, we developed two key messages which were integrated throughout the program:

  • Encourage kids to “have fun, learn, get outside and take action to "Bee Good to the Planet."
  • "For every third bite you take thank a pollinator."

Peter Seligman, CI’s CEO joined Mary Dillon, McDonald’s global chief marketing officer, and Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of Dreamworks Animation to kick off the promotion at a launch event where they all signed the "Bee Good To The Planet Pledge."  CI’s logo, along with environmental “take action” messaging appeared on the Happy Meal boxes, trayliners and specially designed microsites made available by both McDonald’s and CI.   McDonald's also made a financial contribution to support CI's conservation projects protecting pollinators.  A summary of the promotional effort can be seen here


The success of this promotion led to additional opportunities to work with McDonald's to include environmental messaging in their promotions.  This included Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar II, and the Beijing Olympics (in select Chinese metropolitan areas only).  In each case, McDonald's further committed to supporting conservation projects related to the animals featured in the promotion.



Expanding the Partnership: The Endangered Animals Happy Meal

In 2008 CI was approached by the McDonald’s European business unit.  Based on our previous success, they wanted to build a a Happy Meal program based entirely on environmental messaging.  

The marketing and conservation objectives for the campaign including:

  • Creating a new generation of Happy Meals that empowered children to make a difference in the world and the issues they care about.
  • Increasing consumer awareness and understanding about endangered animals, habitat protection and climate change.
  • Demonstrating how McDonald’s is helping to make a difference in securing the long-term protection of the featured animals and habitats through a significant financial contribution.
  • Supporting CI’s own efforts to increase its brand awareness among consumers.

With the objectives agreed to, we worked together to select the animals and habitats we would focus on, the messaging and the activation tactics.   It would become McDonald’s largest ever environmental campaign.  For an overview of the campaign please view the following video:


Posters: For the consumer, the campaign “tease” began as they entered the restaurant store the window posters that used compelling animal imagery and the simple message “Together we can protect our Endangered Animals.”  Internal posters provided additional information about the campaign with a call to action, directions to visit the online experience and pictures of the “premiums” that were being offered.  CI’s logo was featured prominently on both posters.



Engagement Collateral: Each store was further populated with fun, kid friendly items including life size paw print floor stickers, interactive “wobblers” which displayed a deeper level of educational information and merchandise display units.

floor stickers pictureeahm_wobbler2

Happy Meals + Premiums: The core of the promotion was the Happy Meal itself.  In total eight endangered animals were were part of the campaign.   The iconic Happy Meal boxes were used to feature three of the animals, while one of the boxes was dedicated to the issue of climate change which impacts us all.   Each box included a variety of elements including: stunning images, information about the animal's habitat, why each animal was threatened, details about the conservation project being implemented to protect them, stickers and games, an appeal to continue the experience online, and asking the kids to take a personal “pledge” around a specific action item.  The other five animals were part of the premium package which included plush toys and activity sets.  CI's logo was featured on each Happy Meal box.






Trayliners: Trayliners further reinforced the key messages and calls to action by provided a description of the entire campaign in an easy to take home format.


Customized Activation: Individual countries were also empowered to activate on the promotion in their own way.   The U.K. in particular created an entirely unique program to compliment the larger campaign: The Animal Ranger Challenge.   This “mini-campaign” had its own set of activities and collateral to reinforce the message that kids can take actions in their everyday lives to support conservation efforts.  The marketing department further promoted the campaign through a commercial that aired throughout the U.K.:


Online Experience: McDonald’s also took the experience online through one of the company’s first experiments with a dedicated microsite that lived outside of the traditional McDonald’s website platform. (Note: website no longer live), allowed kids to explore the habitats of the featured endangered animals, learn why they were threatened and provide everyday environmental actions they could take in their own lives.  

Upon arrival at the site, each child was presented with a virtual passport.  The passport contained a section for each animal, which, in turn, contained a series of tasks that the visitor must complete in order to stamp those pages.  These sections contained videos of the animals, games, reading fact lists, and environmental pledges.





The Endangered Animals Happy Meal campaign was considered a success by both McDonald’s and Conservation International, delivering on many of the primary objectives that were laid out during the planning stages of the campaign.


  • While McDonald’s regional marketing and communication centers design the promotions, it is often left to individual countries to activate them based on their own marketing calendar and budget.  In this case the Endangered Animals Happy Meal promotion went live in 42 countries and 6000+ restaurants, delivering an estimated 35 million premiums.  The promotion was translated into 35 different languages.

  • The Endangered Animals Happy Meal is considered one of McDonald's most successful promotions that was not tied to a branded movie or toy.  The promotion continues to be the only Happy Meal recognized in the company’s “Best of Green” report which highlights their top environmental case studies.

  • McDonald’s made a 1 million Euro donation to CI which was used to support three conservation projects in Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sumatra.  The money was also used to advance CI’s climate change work.  This was the largest donation ever tied to a marketing effort in the history of both McDonald’s and CI.

  • The promotion contributed to CI’s own efforts to increase its brand awareness among consumers.  During this period, which included other consumer facing efforts, unaided brand awareness of CI jumped 400 percent.  CI’s online membership base also increased by 20 percent.

  • The promotion led to increased interest by other business units at McDonald's to want to work with CI around both business practice work and marketing efforts.  This represented the first time in CI’s history where a marketing effort led to advancing our business engagement work.

Contact Me:
Jason W. Anderson
Falls Church, VA

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