This past Friday marked the opening of one of the summer’s most anticipated movies for kids (and some adults as well). Universal Studios launched Minions about the quirky and wildly popular little yellow characters from the hugely successful Despicable Me movies.
Coordinating with the highly publicized opening weekend has been an incredible range of merchandising campaigns from banana-flavored applesauce and Tic-Tacs to dusters and Twinkies. And of course there is a McDonald‘s Happy Meal toy tie-in. That campaign seems to have fallen prey to some evil Minions of its own.
The Happy Meal toys come with one of several talking Minions. Each Minion—from a cave man to a martial arts Minion to Stuart playing guitar—says several unique phrases when it is shaken or tapped. The problem? Some people claim that one of the Minions says, “What the @#$%.” Of course, the prospect of a cursing Minion has sparked a lot of discussion on social media (and within the traditional news media).
McDonald’s has said that the toys speak the “Minions’ unique language, nothing more.” One company spokesperson said, “We’re aware of a very small number of customers who have been in touch regarding this toy, and we regret any confusion or offense to those who may have misinterpreted its sounds. The allegation that this toy is saying anything offensive or profane is not true.”
While some parents may claim McDonald’s is being irresponsible, it is actually doing the right thing by not making this a larger issue by recalling the allegedly offending Minions—especially given that not every customer thinks the Minion says anything offensive at all.
McDonald’s has a loyal following among families, especially kids. I know my niece and nephews (all younger than 11) love McDonald’s. I think that even the parents who might think their children were exposed to a profane Minion would rather overlook the incident, perhaps after writing a letter or posting to social media to show their outrage, because that is far easier than having to explain to their five-year-old who LOVES McDonald’s why they are now going to Burger King. And honestly, all the media attention may have brought some people into McDonald’s for the first time in years just to get a cursing Minion.
Of course, I hope that McDonald’s is doing its own internal investigation into how this happened and what the process was to approve the final voice scripts for the Minions. I also hope it is thinking about what it can do to avoid a similar issue in the future. But doing so in public is not helpful. McDonald’s is staying focused on the positive by promoting the positive aspects of the Minion campaign instead of derailing a huge marketing campaign. I think the Minions would approve.
Melissa Arnoff is a Senior Vice President at LEVICK and a contributing author to LEVICK Daily.