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Advertising and Promotion Watch: McDonald's Monopoly is Back

This month sees the return of a venerated promotional campaign, McDonald’s Monopoly. The promotion first began in 1987, and in the last decade has become an almost yearly tradition. Each year, certain McDonald’s products come with Monopoly game tokens, each with either a space from the Monopoly board or an instant win prize for items such as a small fries. Larger prizes are won by collecting all of a group of Monopoly properties, usually three, but sometimes two (Illinois Avenue, Indiana Avenue and Kentucky Avenue, for example). Each group of properties have one whose piece is much rarer than the others; for most of the groups, it’s the last alphabetically (Kentucky Avenue for the red properties, Ventnor Avenue for the yellow), but for the dark blue, it’s Boardwalk, as it is the last and most expensive property on the board. More recently, McDonalds developed an online counterpart to its in-store Monopoly game in which customers can roll virtual dice, or more recently pick one of three chance cards for various prizes.

In 2000, McDonald’s Monopoly faced charges of a massive fraud operation, after it was uncovered that an employee of Simon Marketing, a firm McDonald’s paid to work on and market the promotion, found a flaw in the game. Jerome P. Jackson, the then chief of security for the company, was able to take out the most rare and valuable pieces and pass them along to others he knew.Jackson was thus able to control who won all of the top prizes from 1995 to 2000, prizes worth a combined total over $24 million. Eventually the fraud was discovered, and although McDonalds was not directly culpable, it attempted to improve its public image by agreeing to grant prize money to the legitimate winners.

A happier unusual case also occurred in 1995, when a hospital, St. Jude’s, in Memphis, Tennessee received in the mail a game piece worth one million dollars anonymously sent from Dallas, Texas. Although the game rules technically banned the transferring of prizes, McDonalds allowed the transfer in this case and paid the hospital. However, it was later discovered that Jacobson, responsible years of fraud, had sent the piece.

This year, the top prizes include one million dollars in cash for collecting Park Place and Boardwalk, a 2012 Nissan Leaf for collecting Pacific Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue and North Carolina Avenue, and an Electronic Arts Sports Trip for collecting all four railroads.

Trademark Infringement Headlines Offer Franchisors Important Lessons

The Griller franchise prevailed in its trademark infringement suit against The Original Griller. This was due, in part, to the fact that The Original Griller’s logo featured the word “Griller” more prominently than the other included words.

Searching for the Best Franchises for Minorities

Many franchises incentivize minorities to join their systems. As president of the World Franchising Network Rob Bond puts it, these franchises "grease the skids" on behalf of minority candidates because they see value in promoting diversity among their franchisees. On account of a still-languid economy, however, many franchisors' approach has changed significantly in recent years. As Bond explains, “African Americans and Hispanics were being aggressively recruited five years ago to fill vacancies.” But today most franchisors are more concerned with trying to grease the skids for foreign investors with significant piles of investment capital.

Franchise Law for Beginners Part 2: The Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing

A duty to be fair or to be reasonable hardly seems to be unfair or unreasonable, but many franchisors and their attorneys believe that the implied covenant is dangerous or ill-advised and should be abolished. Their concern is that, by its very nature, a duty to act in “good faith” or to “deal fairly” or “reasonably” is inherently unclear.