McDonald’s Reading: an advertisement every 20 meters on Broad Street

These are the three words we have come to associate with McDonald’s after years and years of relentless advertising on our TV screens, radios and online.

But have you noticed how often you see a McDonald’s advertisement downtown?

This reporter has. Following a high-tech investigation armed with my phone and my ability to count, I discovered 16 advertisements on a single side street in Reading.

This corresponded to an average of one advertisement approximately every 20 meters.

Of the three domains I investigated, 28 ads were discovered. That’s 14 ads each for the two Reading town center McDonald’s ads.

Now an MP for Reading has called on McDonald’s to adjust the number of adverts it pays for in the town center after figures showed rising obesity rates in the borough.


This problem caught my attention after noticing the ads on my way to work every morning when I come across several fast food franchise posters, billboards or digital ads.

As my route only covers a small area of ​​Reading, I wanted to see how many McDonald’s adverts I could find elsewhere in the city centre.

Oxford Road to Bridge Street via St Mary’s Butts

On the morning of July 7, I spotted seven separate McDonald’s advertisements showing their new summer menu, McFlurries and breakfast items.

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This ran from the PentaHotel on Oxford Road to the Chronicle offices on Bridge Street – a stretch of around 480 metres.

That means I spotted an ad once every 68 yards, roughly.

Brothers Street

While walking through the city’s nightclub hotspot on July 26, I found five McDonald’s posters.

Most of them advertised ice cream or cold drinks.

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After walking from Admiral Casino to Amy’s Nails, I walked 320 meters – which means I saw an advertisement every 64 meters on average.

Most of them were placed outside and inside the bus shelters opposite the McDonald’s restaurant on Friar Street – a clever marketing move to attract people, perhaps?

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wide street

The High Street of Reading town center – I expected to find lots of McDonald’s adverts here when I walked around on 26th July.

And I was right.

I came across 16 advertisements in the form of flags, shelter posters and digital advertisements 320 meters after a ride on the morning of July 26th.

This means that a resident or shopper walking around the city center will see a Maccies advertisement once every 20 yards, on average.

An advertisement was prominently displayed from a British Heart Foundation store.

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This number does not include electronic advertising standards that flicker between different McDonald’s advertisements every 30 seconds.

Some of these stand-alone digital signs featured a number of other ads for different non-food retailers, meaning a small number of McDonald’s ads weren’t running all the time.

In comparison, only one KFC advertisement could be seen and only one Burger King advertisement was visible on Broad Street.

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Eleven advertisements for Wingstop in the form of flags can be seen, although if you look closely at the flyers you won’t know exactly what is being advertised.

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McDonald’s advertisements on Broad Street were very clear.

They advertised bulky burgers, stacked breakfast items, tall drinks and more.

Why is this important?

A Big Mac burger contains 493 calories. Add a large fries and a large Coke and that’s an extra 656 calories.

In total, this meal represents nearly 60% of the recommended daily calorie intake for a woman and a little less than half that of a man.

Recommended calorie intakes for children vary by age, but the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition estimates that a seven-year-old girl needs 1,530 calories a day.

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A happy meal cheeseburger for children contains 423 calories, which is a quarter of the recommended daily allowance.

Among the most frequently advertised items on Broad Street, a Sausage and Egg McMuffin racks up 423 calories, a Galaxy Caramel McFlurry has 366 calories and a Belgian Milk Chocolate Frappe has 286 calories.

According to the NHS, obesity is usually caused by eating more calories, especially those from fatty and sugary foods, than you burn through physical activity. Excess energy is stored by the body as fat.

Obesity can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, certain types of cancer, such as breast cancer and bowel cancer, stroke, and depression.

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The latest figures show that 845 of Reading’s 100,000 residents were admitted to hospital with obesity either a primary or secondary factor in 2019/2020.

This is up from the previous year’s figure of 588. Three years earlier, the rate was 568.

On top of that, more than one in five children in Reading finish primary school obese, according to NHS data.

This figure (22%) is higher than the national rate of 21%.

What do fast food ads have to do with obesity?

In June 2021, the government announced that it would introduce new rules to limit the airing of advertisements for foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) before 9 p.m.

This policy, alongside restrictions on paid advertising of HFSS foods online, is expected to be imposed in January 2023 to “protect children from developing long-term unhealthy eating habits”.

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The new rules were implemented following government-approved research which showed that exposure to HFSS advertising can affect when and what children eat.

Over time, excessive calorie consumption can lead to overweight or obesity in children.

Slimming World District Manager for Reading, Carole Pritchard, said: “The environment we live in is a major contributor to obesity.

“The truth however is that while measures that address the obesogenic environment, such as regulating junk food advertising, would be a positive step forward, they do not and cannot address the complex way we think of food, or our attitude towards weight and the weight loss process.

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Matt Rodda, MP for Reading East, responded to the Chronicle’s inquiry with a call to McDonald’s.

He said: ‘I am concerned about the rise in obesity and hope the business will look at the number of advertisements on Broad Street.

Of the many McDonald’s advertisements seen on Broad Street, a few were in the form of flags attached to lampposts maintained by Reading Borough Council.

The eleven Wingstop advertisements all took the same form.

This means that the local authority pays for these advertisements.

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An RBC spokesperson said the council’s advertising policy does not currently prevent fast food advertisements from being displayed.

They also said that their displayed advertisements must comply with central government legislation and that the authority would consider changing its policies if the laws change.

What does McDonald’s have to say about it?

A McDonald’s spokesperson said: ‘We offer a range of options on our menu, and it’s important to us that our customers can make informed decisions when visiting our restaurants.

“We have been providing nutrition information to our customers for over 30 years and were the first company to display calorie information on our menu boards.

“All nutrition information is clearly displayed throughout the ordering process, including on the app, on core menu packages and in restaurants.

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“Our range of options includes wraps, salads and we have partnered with Public Health England to introduce 400 and 600 calorie meal plans giving our customers more choice when eating with us.

“We continue to look for opportunities to reformulate our products where possible, and since 2015 we have removed 1,200 tonnes of fat, 512 tonnes of saturated fat, 83.7 tonnes of salt and 2,545 tonnes of sugar from our menu, with 90% of our base food and drink menu being 500 calories or less in the UK.

Final Thoughts

According to this journalist, it is sad to see the main street of our city marred by McDonald’s advertisements.

The impact of such advertising on children is clear and with one in five young people who are obese leaving primary school, something should be done to reduce this very different type of McDonald’s monopoly to ensure our children have a future healthy.

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Although we all have free will and a high number of ads does not necessarily mean that we will all become unhealthy, it would be refreshing to see more posters for independent and healthier food outlets so we can make more informed choices about where to eat locally. .

McDonald’s pubs saturate downtown? I do not like him.

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