Strange McDonald's Promotional Giveaways You Probably Forgot About

The only thing better than getting free stuff — is getting free stuff from McDonald's. What's better than getting rewarded to throw back some crispy chicken nuggets, the classic Big Mac, or those delicious, golden french fries?

Ever since McDonald's inception in 1940 in San Bernardino, California, the fast food franchise has been a trailblazer in several aspects. It created the Speedee Service System, which allowed it to produce massive quantities of food quickly by making the menu items ahead of time for customers. With its 15-cent burgers, the restaurant skyrocketed in popularity.

Over the next decades, however, McDonald's became known for its bold promotional and marketing schemes. Whether it was a brightly-colored (and controversial) clown mascot, manic Monopoly stickers, or its legendary Happy Meals, McDonald's made sure it stayed top of mind for its customers.

But the franchise has had so many promotions over the years, you've likely forgotten about some of its strangest, craziest, and weirdest marketing schemes. We've compiled some of the most interesting promotional giveaways here for your reading pleasure. Get ready to take a trip down nostalgia lane.

The McRazor

When you open up your bag of fast food and reach in to grab a fry, you probably don't expect to grab a sharp, metal object meant to shave people's faces. But in the 1970s, that's exactly what McDonald's gave its customers. In 1978 (and again in 1986), the burger joint launched an interesting promotional scheme — get a "Free Razor with Breakfast Entree." Why? Apparently, the nation was going razor-crazy because Bic had just invented disposable razors a few years earlier.

You're probably thinking, "Well, that sounds dangerous. But McDonald's probably didn't provide them to children." And you'd be wrong. Any child that was with an adult could get their hands on their very own Gillette MicroTrac Razor. In fact, the commercial promoting the razor was directly marketed toward kids. In the commercial, a father claims his young son needed to start shaving. Luckily for them, McDonald's had a fresh blade waiting for them.

Apparently, it didn't seem like that crazy of an idea to McDonald's competitors, either. A few years later, Wendy's decided to join the fast-food-with-razor campaign and offered "Free Razors with Your Breakfast." At least Wendy's required customers to be over the age of 18 to get a razor.

Sure enough, the razors caused all sorts of drama. Tons of lawsuits followed the campaign, and several people even claimed to find razors inside their breakfast sandwiches. For obvious reasons, McDonald's finally gave up giving sharp objects to its customers.

Fiesta Coins

"McDonald's is giving away free money with its food?!" was probably some of the first reactions to the business's Fiesta Coins promotion.

In 1988, McDonald's wanted to promote several new sauces for its beloved McNuggets, including mesquite BBQ, mild salsa with chunks of tomato and onion, and green chili salsa with jalapeno peppers. This "Fiesta Menu" also included a Fiesta Colada shake that blended coconut and pineapple. If you did happen to order off this festive menu, you'd be rewarded with a promotional coin that read in purple text: "Fiesta Coin."

Not only was McDonald's giving out coins, but it provided a nifty coin board holder so customers could try to collect all six of the coins that were offered. The countries that were represented were Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Peru, and Venezuela. Although McDonald's planned on giving out more than 30 million coins, it cost them nearly nothing, as the coins had almost no value. In fact, printing the paper boards that held the coins probably cost the company more.

The strangest part of the promotion? None of the actual Fiesta sauces had anything to do with the countries that were represented by the coins. Most of the sauces had deeper ties to Mexican history than any of the other countries. In hindsight, the promotion was pretty culturally insensitive.

Sippy Dipper Straws

Although McDonald's might have had several odd marketing promotions, it was ahead of its time in many aspects. One of them (however silly the name might be), was the use of reusable straws. Of course, back then, it probably didn't have the environment in mind like companies do today.

In 1969, McDonald's gave out 33 million Sippy Dipper Straws in the first year of the promotion alone. The fun straws were shaped like McDonald's iconic golden arches and were probably the first "crazy" straws anyone had ever seen. 

An advertisement from September of 1970 shows the iconic clown Ronald McDonald drinking happily from an M-shaped straw. The text reads "Free McDonald's Sippy Dipper with every soft drink! The silliest straws you ever saw! Take it home, wash it, use it over and over again." It goes on to say you could pick up as many extras as you wanted for 10 cents apiece. But of course, you needed to hurry, as supplies were limited.

Is 33 million really a limited amount?

McDonald's Action Series

In 1977, McDonald's came up with a line of kitchenware items and dubbed it the "Action Series." It featured glass cups with a different McDonald's Action character with their name printed beneath their picture. The characters included Big Mac, Grimace, Ronald McDonald, Captain Crook, the Hamburglar, and Mayor McCheese. There were six glasses to complete the collection, but there were colorful plates with images of the characters as well.

To get your hands on these, all you needed to pay was 49 cents for a glass or $1 for a plate. The promotional line was a hit. They were sold from select McDonald's locations all throughout the 90s. Even after the fast food franchise stopped producing them, they were still popular with collectors. Today, the Action Series glasses are the second most valuable McDonald's glasses, only behind McDonald's Walt Disney Commemorative Glasses, according to VIP Art Fair. A complete set of Action Series glasses were sold for $90 on eBay in 2022.

The Olympics Disaster

One of the most legendary blunders (or successes, depending on your point of view) McDonald's was involved with was the 1984 Olympic Games. That year, McDonald's was one of the key sponsors for the games. The company also came up with one of its boldest promotions to date. For every single medal the United States won, the fast food giant would give away free menu items to its customers.

Every time a patron would come to McDonald's and buy food, they would get a scratch-off card that had a single Olympic event on it. If the U.S. team won a medal, the customer would win free food. They could get a Big Mac, french fries, or a drink if the team won a gold, silver, or bronze, respectively. The idea was actually a fantastic way to give everyday Americans a tangible stake in the Olympic Games.

However, McDonald's made one huge oversight that completely changed the trajectory of the campaign: the Soviet Union was boycotting the Olympic Games. This was because the U.S. had boycotted the Games back in 1980 when they were in Moscow because of the Soviet involvement in Afghanistan. The States ended up dominating the games, meaning significantly more free food than the company planned. A New York Times article claimed 6,600 McDonald's ran out of Big Macs for the hungry crowds. Although McDonald's never reported how much it lost, we can only imagine how costly it was for them.

The Adult Happy Meal

Healthiness and exercise is probably the last thing on most people's minds when they head to McDonald's, and the company was well aware of that. In 2006, the fast-food giant decided to start a promotion that appealed more to health-conscious customers: the adult Happy Meal.

Not only did customers get a salad and a bottle of Dasani water, but they received a pedometer to track their steps as well as a 15-minute DVD that had different exercise routines on them. There was a series of DVDs that focused on different types of exercises, such as core strength training, cardio workouts, jogging, cycling, and yoga. If you popped the DVD into your TV, Maya, your virtual trainer, would walk you through the workout while providing tips and motivation. You could even select the intensity level you wanted for your workout. Maya would alert you to what moves were coming up, allowing you to prepare for the next movement.

Besides the offerings of the adult happy meal, McDonald's started including other healthy options with its meals, such as low-fat yogurt parfaits and apple wedges. Although these dishes probably won't ever be the most popular items on McDonald's menus, they sure did help appease critics of the other less-than-healthy options it had.

McDonald's Kidz Bop

Workout DVDs weren't the only discs McDonald's handed out to its customers. In 2009, the fast-food chain teamed up with the children's entertainment brand Kidz Bop to distribute a musical offering to its customers. Kidz Bop was no slouch of a company — it sold more than 11 million CDs within its first eight years of business with nine Gold certifications (via American Songwriter). With their kid-friendly covers of popular songs, the Happy Meal partnership was a match made in heaven for the two companies.

Eight different brightly-colored sampler CDs were included with Happy Meals. Each CD featured four different versions of popular songs, including "Since You Been Gone," "Hey There Delilah," "Funkytown," "All-Star," "Complicated," "SOS," "So Yesterday," "Get the Party Started," and "Holiday." McDonald's gave away tens of millions of CDs that customers could just pop directly into their car's CD player when they got them.

Whether you were singing along or plugging your ears, one thing is for certain: McDonald's was at the forefront of unique promotional giveaways like this one.

Happy Goggles VR Experience

If it felt like just about every single company in the world wanted to get into the VR game in 2016 — it's because they did. Add McDonald's to that group as well. If you don't remember it, it's probably because the only McDonald's that offered it was in Sweden. To get your headset (called "Happy Goggles"), all you needed to do was order a Happy Meal.

If you looked inside the box, you wouldn't see a VR headset — because the Happy Meal box actually was the headset. To build it, customers would simply re-fold the box along the perforated lines to form goggles that could perfectly hold a smartphone in place (unfortunately, McDonald's didn't provide the smartphone). Once the phone was slotted into the Happy Goggles box, you could play any type of VR content you wanted. However, the game that was designed for Happy Goggles was "Slope Stars." This was a virtual reality ski simulator that was endorsed by the Swedish National Ski Team.

It was definitely an interesting experience. A psychologist spoke about it in a press release and said: "It creates an opportunity for adults to learn from the children's knowledge and experience. The gaming can also be a good, joint activity that makes it easier to hang out — on equal terms" (via Popular Science). Seemed like a great idea, except for the part about putting a greasy cardboard box on your face.

Toothbrush and Toothpaste

Remember that neighbor down the street that always handed out stuff like apples or toothpaste when it came to trick-or-treating on Halloween? Surely McDonald's never would have pulled a stunt like that, right? Wrong.

Probably the saddest Happy Meal toy that ever existed was the toothbrush/toothpaste combo. In 1983, the fast food chain (apparently) looked out for children's teeth by giving out a tube of Colgate's winter-fresh gel to promote better dental health. McDonald's didn't do this once...or twice...but several separate times (despite customers' unenthusiastic response).

In 1989, the fast-food giant gave out a "bedtime" collection that included a plastic cup, wash mitt, toothpaste, a glow-in-the-dark figurine, and a toothbrush with Ronald McDonald's head on it. Yes, that's right. Not only were these the least toy-like offerings you could possibly get in a "Happy" meal, but the only semi-toy-like item was also one that would be sure to induce nightmares.

If you've had to talk to your therapist about McDonald's Ronald McDonald toothbrushes, we don't blame you.

Music players with 30 seconds of pop songs

The Kidz Bop CDs weren't the only music venture the McDonald's marketing team embarked on. Those born in the 90s and early 00s might remember getting their very first MP3 player right out of the smiling red box from McDonald's.

In 2006, McDonald's gave out small, plastic music players that played snippets of different songs, like "Crazy Frog," Girls Aloud's "Call the Shots," Bob Sinclair's "Rock This Party," and more. You just had to plug in the accompanying "music disc" with the artist's face into the small speaker, and you'd get 30 seconds of your new favorite song. The vintage toy recently received attention on social media again after a TikTok by @retrotoyseller went viral playing a clip of a Jason Derulo song.

It's no wonder why these little toys were such a hit. Imagine being a kid that couldn't afford to get an expensive iPod or access downloaded music. But just by purchasing a simple Happy Meal, you could get your very first portable music player with some of the most popular songs at the time. We applaud you for this one, McDonald's.


Of all of the strange promotions on this list, this one is definitely the most educational. In 2019, select McDonald's began handing out Roald Dahl books instead of toys along with Happy Meals. The franchise handed out more than 800,000 books by the popular children's author. Six books were included: Matilda, Fantabulous BFG, Lucky Charlie Bucket, Wonderful Mr. Willy Wonka, Marvellous Miss Honey, and Brave Little Sophie. All of the books included extracts from the original texts written by Roald Dahl as well as new illustrations, stickers, and activities.

It wasn't the first or last time McDonald's got into the book business. In 2023, McDonald's released a set of HarperCollins books, including If You Take a Mouse to School, Pete the Cat's Got Class, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses, and Paddington. Again, each of the books came with high-quality designs and activities.

Although the book campaigns seemed innocuous enough, it didn't sit right with everyone. One parents' group claimed it encouraged kids to eat more unhealthy fast food in order to collect books. The Parent's Jury, the healthy eating lobby group, said McDonald's required kids to collect several Happy Meal tokens in order to get the books, meaning they would need to eat 23 Happy Meals in just eight weeks (via Mumbrella).

Was McDonald's in the wrong for giving out books with Happy Meals? You decide.


One of the most memorable Happy Meal toys (that you probably forgot about) was the Tamgotchi. The Tamogatchi was an incredibly popular Japanese toy created in 1996. It was an egg-shaped keychain with a screen on it that gave users access to a handheld digital pet. The characters ranged from colorful animals to objects to people.

In 1998, McDonald's capitalized on the success of the popular toy and released its own branded version of the Japanese toy. There were nine versions of the toy included in the Happy Meals children could collect, and one of them could only be collected at Wal-Mart McDonald's locations.

The toys weren't lost to nostalgia forever, either. In 2019, McDonald's launched a "Surprise Happy Meal" to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first Happy Meal. These included some of the most popular toys of the last four decades, including Power Rangers, Beanie Babies, Furbies, and yes, the Tamogatchi. If you're an adult that went straight to McDonald's to relive your childhood, we don't blame you.

Socks and Slippers

In 2019, McDonald's launched an interesting promotional giveaway for just one night only. It partnered up with Uber Eats to deliver limited edition clothing to celebrate its third annual "Global McDelivery Night In." This night is a celebration of enjoying McDonald's tasty food in the comfort of your own home while spending time with loved ones. To celebrate this, McDonald's gave out the perfect gear to let you chill at home with.

If you were home on Thursday, September 19th, and ordered more than $10 worth of food, you got some sweet McDonald's gear delivered straight to your doorstep. This included a wide variety of clothing items, like McDonald's fuzzy socks, burger and fries sweatpants, yellow sesame seed bun slippers, as well as other t-shirts, shorts, and sweatshirts. It also included other cool accessories like headphones, blankets, hair scrunchies, playing cards, and a zip-up sleep sack. This promotion was available in 50 different countries around the world across six different continents.