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New Ads Emphasize Healthy Aspects of Grease-Dipped Chicken

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CHICAGO ( -- With sales declining and competition exploding, KFC Corp. today is going on the offensive with a defensive-minded strategy aimed at
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educating the public that fried chicken can actually be part of a healthy diet.

"Consumers should no longer feel guilty about eating fried chicken," Scott Bergren, KFC's executive vice president for marketing and food innovation, said in a statement.

Fried chicken vs. The Whopper
The Louisville, Ky.-based unit of Yum Brands breaks a two-spot effort tomorrow that compares the fat, carbohydrate and protein contents of its "Original Recipe" chicken breasts to that of Burger King's Whopper sandwich.

KFC said that each piece of its fried chicken has 19 grams of fat and 380 calories, far fewer than a Whopper, with 43 grams of fat and 710 calories. The Whopper is considered one of the most fat- and calorie-laden burgers in the fast-food category, making it an easy comparison for KFC to beat.

"With more and more Americans on diets and increasingly health-conscious, we thought it was important to get this information to consumers so they can judge for themselves how to make KFC part of their healthy lifestyle," Mr. Bergren said.

"I think there's a little bit of panic here," said Jack Trout, a consultant at Trout & Partners. He sees few options for KFC in its decision to position the brand as a reward in a category under pressure from critics charging fast food has contributed mightily to the obesity epidemic.

Over the past two years, KFC has tried to distance itself from the fast-food category it helped to

In the latest KFC ad, a young wife brings her husband some health food: fried chicken.
build. A campaign from its former agency, Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, carried the tagline "There's fast food. Then there's KFC" and featured actor Jason Alexander deriding hamburgers. That effort did little to stem the same-store sales declines KFC has suffered for several months. Similarly, Mr. Trout is dubious that this campaign will attract new customers.

"They can't change people's minds that it's unhealthy so they're trying to stop the people fleeing from their chicken," he said. "They're looking to hold on to their base. They're trying to give their core customer a rationale to keep eating the stuff."

Less fat, less taste?
Not surprisingly, KFC executives are saying consumers can reduce the fat and calorie count by removing the skin and breading from the chicken, a strategy many dieters had discovered years ago. But by doing so, it removes much of the flavor, which KFC has touted in the past by referring to the "11 herbs and spices" in its recipe. Executives says that paired with two lower-fat side dishes, a skinless meal comes contains to 10 grams of fat or less.

The campaign is from KFC's new agency, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote, Cone & Belding, Chicago, which won the account last month. The agency has been credited with boosting the fortunes of Yum Brands sibling Taco Bell.

TV spots carry a new tagline, "You've Gotta KFC What's Cookin'" and emphasize the freshness of the birds before they're fried. One spot shows a woman telling her husband they will start eating better with a KFC meal, while a second spot features two young men "rediscovering" the brand.

The disclaimer
Both spots carry a disclaimer indicating the chicken isn't a "low-fat, low-sodium or low-cholesterol" food.

Meanwhile, KFC is testing roasted chicken filet strips with a cold vegetable salad along with other non-fried meals. The chain also has jumped on the nutritional information bandwagon by providing "Keep It Balanced" nutritional brochures, as well as a nutrition calculator on its Web site.

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