Forget the blessing: KFC should do penance for latest PR stunt

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That KFC/Taco Bell rat video played havoc with KFC in more ways than one. Not only did it give the restaurant a bad name, it also drowned out news of its latest publicity stunt. Seems that Colonel Sanders, perhaps thinking that men who favor white clothing share a common bond, has asked Pope Benedict XVI to bless KFC's Fish Snacker sandwich just in time for Lent. And while the stunt got plenty of buzz in the blogosphere, it didn't get the widespread TV coverage it so rightly deserved.

Rats or not, it seems increasingly likely that KFC won't get a papal blessing.

Two weeks into the Lenten season and the Yum Brands chain is still waiting a response from the pontiff on its request. It should come as no surprise-to anyone outside the Yum marketing department, that is-that a blessing isn't something the pope just tosses around. A Chicago Archdiocese spokesman told our own Kate MacArthur: "The pope will only give blessings for marriages and anniversaries of esteemed members or years." Or for reception of or participation in the sacraments.

You can't blame a guy for trying. Gregg Dedrick, president of KFC, sent a letter to the pontiff Feb. 6 "beseeching" him to grant his seal of approval. "Your blessing on this endeavor would do much to promote this sandwich as a way for members of your flock to keep a holy Lenten season, while still leading their busy, modern lifestyles," wrote Dedrick. Adages thought he was on the right track until he launched into a full-on sales pitch. "The KFC Fish Snacker costs $.99 U.S.-a cost that is significantly less than most restaurant-made sandwiches-and is made from 100% Alaskan Pollock, dressed with tartar sauce and served on a warm sesame seed bun." So, so tacky.

But the silence doesn't completely rule out a papal plug. "They may have more luck getting an endorsement" rather than a blessing, added the spokesman, noting the pope's earlier endorsement of a German beer (Stuttgarter Hofbr„u, if you're curious-his face is even on the label). KFC could get the same kind of approval "if they went through the proper channels and the pope liked the sandwich as much as he liked the beer," he said.

But if the pope is as smart as we think he is, he's going to go with Popeye's (founded in Catholic New Orleans, by the way) every time.

Bubba does his bit for TV Land

Speaking of big fish in small ponds, it seems that MTV Networks is pulling out all the stops for its TV Land upfront presentation. TV Land President Larry W. Jones said in a press release: "TV Land is honored that President Bill Clinton has graciously agreed to speak at this TV Land presentation. As America's most popular president and the world's most iconic baby boomer, TV Land advertisers and affiliates will get the opportunity to hear firsthand from President Clinton." Far be it from us to question that "most popular president" bit, but we'd like to point out that Grover Cleveland will beat Bubba every time in a head-to-head popularity contest. But it is a good fit. Clinton is a boomer, after all. And he does have that characteristic boomer trait of taking all the credit for everything while using up all the resources. After all, we'd bet half his speaking fee that Clinton only "agreed" to chat after Viacom ponied up the $150,000 to $350,000 he usually charges.

Weather Channel makes obvious choice

One of the many, many press releases we received last week alerted us to the fact that the Weather Channel has named as its agency of record South Norwalk, Conn.-based Media Storm. Well, duh! No way it could have resisted that name.

Contributing: Kate MacArthur

Send your indulgences to kwheaton@crain.com
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