1979: McDonald’s launches the Happy Meal


By Doug Zanger | Americas Editor

March 31, 2016 | 2 min read

To celebrate the Ad Club of New York's 120th anniversary, The Drum is inviting readers to share their favorite marketing moments from the past 120 years.

Today’s marketing moment was chosen by Chris Perkins, managing director at Bernstein-Rein. Below, he discusses how McDonald’s changed the game, by introducing a product that is still going strong today.

In 1979, McDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal. The concept enabled the restaurant to create a better meal experience for children and families. Many brands saw the value in partnering with McDonalds to build relevancy with consumers.

Numerous marketers leveraged movie openings with themed Happy Meals such as Star Wars and Power Rangers. Others such as Mattel and Beanie Babies introduced specially-created collectibles.

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The Happy Meal was created by Bob Bernstein, founder of Bernstein-Rein for a local St. Louis McDonald’s restaurant. When I joined the agency late in 2015, I came to truly appreciate how revolutionary the idea was at the time. You don’t come across a marketing innovation that after, almost 40 years, continues to be the standard bearer in demonstrating how great content can impact the connection between people and brands.

Original Happy Meal

See the full 120 Marketing Moments in the dedicated online section and find out how to purchase the exclusive book.


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