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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 March 2005, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
'Return of the Mac' - coming soon
Hip hop star Jay-Z
Jay-Z has namechecked Bentley in several songs
McDonald's has offered to pay top hip hop artists to incorporate the 'Big Mac' into their song lyrics.

According to Advertising Age magazine, the fast food chain will pay rappers up to 2.80 ($5) every time a song namechecking the burger is played.

McDonald's said the US deal reflected the appeal of hip hop to young people.

However, critics said the tie-up was "deceptive" given that the songs would appeal to children, for whom obesity levels have become a major concern.

Food for thought

A whole string of products has enjoyed huge success in the United States after rappers started dropping brand names into songs - although not for marketing purposes but bling boasting.

Among the happy beneficiaries were brands like Courvoisier, Gucci, Dom Perignon, Bentley and Porsche.

Artists who have 'referenced' well-known products include Jay-Z, 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg.

Each McDonald's market has the freedom to design programmes that best resonate with customers
Walt Riker, McDonald's

Advertising Age said that McDonald's would not pay an artist upfront but that they would be rewarded based on the airplay songs received in the United States.

The company will have the final say over the appropriate lyrics but the singers will retain artistic control over how they are incorporated into the track.

McDonalds said the initiative was in line with its 2003 global marketing campaign aimed at 18-34 year olds, which launched the slogan 'I'm loving it'.

"Each McDonald's market has the freedom within the 'I'm lovin' it framework' to design programmes that best resonate with customers, in this case a McDonald's USA concept designed to reach young adults through their music of choice," said spokesman Walt Riker.

"How it develops remains to be seen."

'Lip service'

The marketing plan was criticised by some consumer groups, which claimed that children would not be aware that the artists had been paid to promote the burger.

"Even as food companies pay lip service to the idea of responsible marketing, they increasingly turn to new and deceitful ways of targeting children," said Dr Susan Linn, co-founder of US group Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood.

McDonald's and other fast food chains have faced criticism that they are helping to fuel an obesity epidemic, particularly among children.

The US company has taken steps to diversify its menu, offering a wider choice of salads and fruit.

It is also giving more nutritional information to customers and promoting a "balanced lifestyle" in some of its marketing.

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