KFC has been in France for 26 years, but only 3% of French people know who Colonel Sanders is -- despite the fact that his face has been on chicken buckets all the while.
Now a new campaign by Sid Lee Paris aims to introduce the Colonel character to the French in its advertising for the first time. It starts with a spot that sees the Colonel (speaking French in a strong American accent) on a mission to educate France after a young Frenchman refers to his KFC meal as "just chicken."
The spot, directed by Jeff Low via La Pac, sees the Colonel telling his life story, including how he kept his recipe secret since 1939 and how the quest for 11 herbs and spices gave his life meaning (as he waterskis down a tropical river balanced on two crocodiles). We also see him riding a submarine/giant whale, striding through a desert surounded by epic characters and performing motorcycle tricks Evil Knievel style.
Although executed in a quirky style somewhat reminiscent of W&K Portland's revamped Colonel ads, the work was done indepedently by Sid Lee. Mehdi Benali, managing director at Sid Lee Paris, tells Creativity: "Although our Colonel may wear the same suit and flaunt the same amazing hair as his U.S. counterpart, we wanted to capture the traits of his actual personality that are the most relevant to French consumers. One could say that he holds a little more French panache than his American version. We like to talk about him as a bit of a hero, someone who definitely does not take himself too seriously but who doesn't joke with the quality of his chicken recipe."
According to Benali, the brand launched an international casting to find an American actor with the right personality and who spoke French. The actor cast in the film is American, lives in France and was actually fond of Colonel Sanders as a kid. "For both the brand owners and the team at Sid Lee, only an American actor could embody this icon. We wanted him to look and sound credible, not like a grotesque or distorted version of the real character. We did not want to hire a celebrity. At this stage, we felt it could have been confusing. It may be something we'll investigate further down the line, as we can already see that the Colonel character is interesting to the artistic community."
The campaign also includes outdoor executions and Twitter posts, while internally KFC employees were treated to an in-person introduction to the Colonel who delivered a keynote speech.