KFC’s sexually suggestive ad reveals a brand that now knows its market

In this guest post, Nic Hayes says he believes KFC's sexually suggestive Hot & Spicy 'Coming Soon' ad served to prove the brand has now worked out exactly who its audience is and what they want from the brand.

Nic Hayes MD Media StableI was watching TV last night and up came the advertisement for KFC ‘hot and spicy’ chicken. A family-friendly themed advertisement with the usual characters you might find in a fast food television commercial.

The family, the young people, the working man and the like, all enjoying a hearty meal of chicken.

Normally a fast food advertisement wouldn’t even register any interest but I had heard about this product last week. Last Friday consumers on Twitter got a very different advertisement put in front of them that was highly sexualised with a young couple taking part in an activity that was pixelated to hide a possibly sexual act. It was unclear exactly what was “coming soon”.KFc

Whether the male was being pleasured or the female was genuinely reaching in for a piece of chicken, the advertisement had all the hallmarks and innuendo of an after-hours SBS film.

The advertisement was only up for an hour but caused enough outrage and disgust with people across the country that it went viral.

Which is exactly what those that prepared the campaign would have been counting on.

There was a very smart use of humour, sexual innuendo and hashtag bait that was always going to get attention.

The hashtag #NSFW ‘Not Safe for Work’ clearly positioned this as an advertisement with explicit content.

KFC brought down the advertisement within an hour along with a comment about ‘not meaning to offend’, despite offence and outcry being the obvious aims.

The greatest offence here, according to Sarah Mitchell, head of content at Lush Digital, was that the company had treated its audience with disrespect.

She argues that KFC’s limp apology suggests it was out to cause a disturbance and gain more attention in the media streams that would follow the social media outcry.

This, according to Ms Mitchell, “demonstrates a lack of authenticity and a lack of respect for their audience.”
KFC--Get Yours Before It Disappears

I am not completely convinced by this argument. The advertisement was carefully designed to get maximum exposure in a short period of time.

I could see immediately the humour behind the piece as did the majority of people, both male and female, that I discussed the campaign with. It is those who have been upset with the campaign that have given it the legs to be amplified through the multiple media platforms that it has.

The story is that the outrage from a few has resulted in this going viral to the masses.

I also think KFC know their audience. They know their consumer and they know that many of their target market would have enjoyed the advertisement. Ultimately the organisations that should be most affronted are the media houses that are missing out on revenue through traditional print, radio and television advertisements.

There will be plenty of those advertisements but maybe now they might get some breakthrough thanks to “that ad”. This was a case of a briefly-revealed, cost-effective advertisement on social media doing more for a brand’s exposure than traditional advertising models.

In short, this Twitter advertisement for KFC was a PR stunt to kick start a campaign.

This Twitter advertisement for KFC was put up a week ago now has very much been done and dusted with truly little to no backlash at all.

Sure a few people expressed their outrage on social media, but being the fish bowl it is the outrage quickly turns to the next outrage. The figures on Hot and Spicy chicken will be collated and compared with the previous year’s sales and that will be the measure of success from this campaign.

The questions I have for the industry are these. Is this what a campaign needs today? A sexually-driven teaser withdrawn at a moment’s notice? Is this sort of viral shock strategy that we are going to get from our advertising campaigns in the future?

The reason brands can use these kinds of campaigns is because they can. The consumers and the masses on social media take the bait.

It is only when the public doesn’t bite, that the creatives will look to find another way for breakthrough.

Chicken, anyone?

Nic Hayes is the managing director of Media Stable and co-presenter of communications podcast Brand Newsroom


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.