ADOTAS – The Wall Street Journal is running an informative series about privacy in online advertising to inform users regarding the practices of online advertising technology providers, agencies and publishers. While the industry can always do more to inform users regarding how online advertising works and how data is used, I wonder how important privacy really is for most users.
In 2004, the documentary “Super Size Me”, followed American independent filmmaker Morgan Spurlock as he ate three meals a day for a period of 30 days at various McDonald’s fast food restaurants. During the 30 days, Spurlock’s weight increased from 185.5 pounds to 210 pounds for a gain of 24.5 pounds.
According to his personal trainer, Spurlock is in above average physical shape at the beginning of the project. Despite this, he suffers from heart palpitations during day 21, and is advised to stop eating at McDonald’s immediately by his internist, Dr. Daryl Isaacs, in order to avoid any serious health problems. Other side effects include a cholesterol level of 230, mood swings, sexual dysfunction and fat accumulation to his liver.
“Super Size Me” is the twelth highest grossing documentary film of all time, generating revenue of $20.6 million worldwide. In addition, the film was nominated for the Best Documentary Academy Award, but ultimately lost to “Born Into Brothels.”
I was wondering what effect the movie would have on (1) obesity in America and (2) sales at McDonald’s.
According to the research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of obesity among adults aged 20 years and over in 2004 was 24.5% (crude estimate), which grew to 28.7% in 2010 (crude estimate), an increase of more than 17%.
Revenue at McDonald’s also increased from $17,889 billion in 2004 to $22,745 billion in 2009 (2010 results aren’t published yet), a 27% increase (NOTE: these numbers include all international revenues for the McDonald’s corporation, taking into account revenue from other, non-McDonald’s operations. In addition, it should be noted that revenue decreased from $23,522 billion in 2008 to $22,745 in 2009).
Though my analogies aren’t 100% definitive or necessary relevant to how people perceive online privacy, they do raise some questions regarding the impact (or lack thereof) of the controversial movie “Super Size Me.” Did it have any impact on America? If it had an impact, what is it?
“Super Size Me” did impact McDonald’s marketing and product management. The company discontinued its Super Size option six weeks after the premiere of the movie, and has focused more on healthier products like salads.
If people aren’t concerned with their physical health, are they really worried about an advertiser knowing that they’re 35-44 with more than 300 friends on Facebook who play Farmville and watch “Solid Gold” on YouTube? Or is it an issue of control and personal choice – they go to McDonald’s by choice, but don’t choose to be targeted by advertisers.