KFC is using a fictional adman to hype the limited return of its Nashville Hot Chicken.
Vincent Kartheiser, better known as Pete Campbell to "Mad Men" fans, is the latest actor to step into a Colonel Sanders role. He's playing the Nashville Hot Colonel and viewers can expect to see Mr. Kartheiser appear in a variety of ways in subsequent commercials.
Yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken was around during the years "Mad Men" portrayed. But Sterling Cooper and the agencies that followed did not do any work for the brand. (Thanks, FiveThirtyEight for the comprehensive Don Draper client list). Still, it's fun to imagine how Mr. Kartheiser's ad exec character would have tried to woo the KFC brass with a night in New York.
Mr. Kartheiser gets to wear an embellished version of the Colonel's white suit, including sparkling studded lapels. But you'll have to look carefully to find him in the first spot --he does not act in the first TV commercial, but appears throughout the 30-second spot on album covers, posters and other decorations in the bedroom of a teenage girl seemingly in love with the Nashville Hot Colonel and his chicken.
"Like KFC's Nashville Hot Chicken, I'm a bit of a rebel decked out in authentic Nashville flavor—a perfect combination of classic and cool," Mr. Kartheiser said in a statement.
When looking for someone to play the Nashville Hot Colonel, "KFC sought out a young actor with lots of hair and flair. Vincent's vintage good looks and piercing blue eyes made him perfect for the role," KFC said in a statement.
Nashville Hot Chicken was on the KFC menu from January through April and the chain said fans have been asking for it to return. It is back as a limited-time item and this time KFC will sell a Nashville Hot-style Chicken Little sandwich, along with the fried chicken pieces and tenders that were on the menu the first time around.
KFC is bringing back Nashville Hot Chicken at a time when the chain is, well, hot. U.S. same-store sales jumped 6% last quarter, driven by the chain's Extra Crispy campaign. KFC U.S. has had nine consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth.
The chain's alignment with its franchisees "and strong marketing adhering to core, innovation and value," were highlighted by Yum Brands Inc. CEO Greg Creed during the company's Oct. 6 conference call. He pointed out that Extra Crispy chicken is a product KFC has had for more than 40 years, but putting it into the $5 box and $20 bucket deals helped drive business. The star of that campaign was George Hamilton.
The Nashville Hot campaign is the latest work for KFC from Wieden & Kennedy.
The new sandwich ($1.69 plus tax) includes a Nashville Hot chicken tender, pickles and mayo on a sesame seed bun. KFC said most locations will also offer Nashville Hot-style grilled chicken and wings.
KFC said when it first sold Nashville Hot chicken the best performing market was, perhaps no surprise, Nashville, Tenn.