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Under the direction of Terry Davenport, chief concept officer of KFC Corp., the country's No. 1 chicken chain may have finally found the right recipe for its advertising.

Thanks to an animated character based on founder Col. Harland Sanders, new advertising launched in September has boosted ad awareness for KFC to an all-time high.

"After just four weeks with the campaign, our awareness more than doubled and has stayed there ever since," says Mr. Davenport, 41.

Same-store sales also have increased each quarter since the launch.

The new ads followed several short-term TV campaigns using live action and various themelines. Mr. Davenport says he wanted Y&R Advertising, New York, to cook up creative that could be sustained regardless of changing product or promotional messages. He also sought an appeal to a wide age group and an end to the chain's old-fashioned image.

What better ingredient to work with, he reasons, than KFC's beloved founder-the feisty, white-suited Col. Sanders, who died in 1980.

"We wanted to be more connected to the brand, and we thought the colonel could do that," Mr. Davenport says.

An earlier attempt in the mid-'80s to use an actor had poor results, so animation made sense, Mr. Davenport recounts.

About 150 drawings later, from more than a dozen artists, the new colonel was born. He's a persnickety, jazzy character with the voice of actor Randy Quaid.

"The colonel could actually go from being the living, breathing human founder for the company to a brand icon like the Pillsbury Doughboy or Tony the Tiger or

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