Monday, November 29, 2021

Kentucky Fried Cranium

For the life of me I will never understand people who are in charge of approving marketing. Because for the life of me it has been made painfully clear these same marketing professionals don't understand people.

Allow me to explain this strained syllogism.

Roughly seven years ago, Kentucky Fried Chicken aka KFC, delivered their account to the front doors of Wieden Kennedy in Portland. This was in the Before Times, when the country was enjoying solid steady growth and had the wherewithal to deal with any worldwide pandemic. 

Sales at KFC were sagging, perhaps due to the growing health consciousness and the move away from fatty fried foods. So the creative department reached deep into their pocket of tricks and pulled out a winner. They reinvigorated the company spokesperson, Colonel Sanders, and did it in a way that had never been done.

There wasn't just one Colonel Sanders, there were many. In the world of advertising it was pure heresy. And violated the cardinal rule of "treat the consumer like an idiot." In a similar vein, I recall sitting in a meeting with Jamie Tarses and Stu Blumberg (co-chairs of ABC entertainment) and suggesting we roll out a different tagline every day of the year. They looked at me as if I had arrived on Earth from a different planet.)

It was big, bold step. And it featured a revolving cast of characters including George Hamilton, Jason Alexander, Rob Lowe, Norm Macdonald even Reba McCintyre. After years of tired, boring, crispless work, suddenly people were talking about KFC advertising.

It was funny, entertaining, sometimes challenging, but always fresh. I don't know how it impacted sales, but my intuition tells me when people on the street are whispering, "Hey did you see that new KFC commercial?", they're also hauling buckets of the fried pigeon back to the double wide. 

Plus, the campaign went on for years. Generally clients, particularly clients with franchisees, don't play the long game unless it's paying dividends in the short term.

But all that is about to change. Because recently the genii at YUM (parent company of KFC) announced an agency review. They're putting the account up for grabs. And here's the best part, they told possible contenders they were looking for work with outstanding creative, JUST LIKE WIEDEN KENNEDY's.

"I'm breaking up with you. This isn't working. It's not you it's me. I need someone new, someone one different, someone more exciting. I'm seeing your identical sister."

You can't tell me the revolving Colonel Sanders well is dry. With an instantly recognizable spokesperson and a platform that allows you to pluck any celebrity out of the ether and sit him or her in the makeup trailer, there are infinite possibilities to keep this campaign going. Give me a full day rate and I'll have a dozen new spots written in a week. One might even be good.

My Spidey Sense tells me something else is afoot: tension, conflict and fatigue. 

KFC claims to want work like Wieden Kennedy, they just don't want to deal with the work that's needed to produce that kind of work. That often involves collaborating with creative people who have a strong opinion. People who see ideas as precious and worth fighting for. People who have made their bones breaking rules, challenging the norm, and taking straw and turning it into gold. You know, The Difficult Ones.

Good luck KFC.

And congratulations for butchering the golden goose, dipping it in batter and deep frying it in oil that hasn't been changed since the first store opened in North Corbin, Kentucky, 91 years ago.



Write Josh said...

Reminds me of the new marketing genius who killed the most interesting man in the world because they wanted to portray youth

Spooner said...

Exactly what ^Josh said.