The best part of Happy Meals was always opening the box to find the toy inside. Now, the box is the toy.
At McDonald’s Sweden, kids who order $4.10 Happy Meals can now turn them into virtual reality headsets, a la Google Cardboard. As reported by AdWeek, DDB Stockholm reimagined the iconic red box with perforations, so that customers can tear it apart, punch out the eyeholes, and reconfigure the shape. Lenses, which come inside the box, slide in. And then kids can beg their parents for the final component–their smartphones–to provide the display. McDonald’s also released a skiing game designed to work with the headset.
A marketing stunt? Of course, but maybe not a bad one. The promise of cardboard VR headsets is that they can democratize the experience of VR so that anyone with a phone–rather than a $1,000 PC–can try it. And while McDonald’s is deciding whether or not to scale the initiative, its potential reach is almost unfathomable. The company sells over a billion Happy Meals each year. If each were fit with VR capability, they’d out-scale the initiatives of Oculus, HTC, and Samsung combined. Heck, Apple had “only” sold 700 million iPhones, total, as of last year.
And while I wouldn’t go so far as to claim this flimsy, french-fry-smelling box is going to pull humanity into the Matrix, it’s worth remembering how small design changes made inside global companies can have a major impact on the world–for as little as $4.10. And by that logic, any Happy Meal box that’s just a Happy Meal box is also a wasted opportunity.
All Photos: courtesy McDonald’sMW