Best of the Decade: KFC resurrects Colonel Sanders in myriad forms

Reba McEntire, a WWE star, a romance novel hunk—who wasn't the Colonel in the last ten years?

Published On
Jan 25, 2018

Editor's Pick

Creativity looks back on the brand ideas and campaigns that made the last decade. See the full lineup here

Best of the Decade

In five years, KFC managed to go from fried chicken purveyor to creator of all kinds of culture, thanks to the team at Wieden & Kennedy Portland. After brand landed at the agency in 2015, founder Colonel Sanders got a massive, multi-personality makeover—in the form of celebrities (like Darrel Hammond, Norm Macdonald, George Hamilton, Rob Lowe and Reba Macintyre), a WWE star, a romance novel hunk and video game heartthrob

Other efforts from the agency included an ASMR campaign, a store selling outrageous tchotchkes like a $20,000 chicken sandwich-shaped meteorite and more. 

Original Story

Country music fans might instantly recognize the voice of the first woman to play KFC's Colonel Sanders, but for others, it could take several seconds before figuring out who's in the sparkly white suit.

"I'm Colonel Sanders," Reba McEntire, disguised as the man himself, belts out in the opening seconds of the chain's latest spot. "Same as always, absolutely nothing's changed."

McEntire the colonel is on stage at a honky-tonk bar, and when she starts singing, the audience goes nuts. She tosses her white cowboy hat out into the revelers, revealing a quick cut of the "real" McEntire, who catches the hat on her head.

Wearing a wig, facial hair, glasses and a fringed, sparkly white suit, McEntire dons a look similar to that of the nine male celebrities who have starred in the ever-changing Colonel role. She's the first woman, and the first music superstar, to play the part, which originated with Darrell Hammond in May 2015. Her spot, from KFC agency Wieden & Kennedy Portland, is also the first one to feature dancing policemen.

"I grew up with Kentucky Fried Chicken," McEntire said in a KFC statement. "It's part of my story, and I'm so excited to now be part of theirs. I've held a lot of roles in my life�"sort of like the Colonel himself�" but this is certainly the most unique one yet."

What she's part of, specifically, is selling the chain's newest regional flavor, Smoky Mountain BBQ fried chicken.

Smoky Mountain BBQ is the Yum Brand Inc. chain's third southern-inspired flavor. Vincent Kartheiser played the Nashville Hot fried chicken colonel in 2016, followed by Billy Zane as the Georgia Gold Colonel in 2017. Ray Liotta was then the face of both of those flavors in a campaign that broke in September.

The colonel who came just before McEntire was unknown actor Christopher Boyer, a non-celebrity chosen to be the value colonel. The others, in order of appearance, have been Hammond, Norm Macdonald, Jim Gaffigan, George Hamilton, Rob Riggle, Kartheiser, Zane, Rob Lowe and Liotta.

KFC isn't the only brand McEntire works with. Her other projects include a "REBA by Justin" footwear line, Reba apparel at Dillard's and a line of cosmetics.


Jan 25, 2018
Brand :
Client :
Agency :
Wieden & Kennedy-Portland
Executive Creative Director :
Eric Baldwin
Executive Creative Director :
Jason Bagley
Creative Director :
Jarrod Higgins
Creative Director :
Freddie Powell
Copywriter :
Nathaniel Lawlor
Copywriter :
Ansel Wallenfang
Art Director :
Nick Stokes
Art Director :
Ruth Bellotti
Executive Producer :
Heather Smith Harvey
Senior Producer :
Melanie Fedunok
Strategy :
Britton Taylor
Strategy :
Scott Woodhouse
Strategy :
John Dempsey
Strategy :
Andrew Clayton
Account :
Jesse Johnson
Account :
Rob Archibald
Account :
Kate Rutkowski
Account :
Lindsay Varquez
Business Affairs :
Amber Lavender
Business Affairs :
Nestor Gandia
Comms Planning :
Kelsey Bozanich
Comms Planning :
Anjali Patel
Creative Manager :
Lauren Walker
Production Company :
Biscuit Filmworks
Executive Producer :
Holly Vega
Line Producer :
Jay Veal
Director, Photography :
Lasse Frank
Editor :
Ian MacKenzie
Post Executive Producer :
Gina Pagano
Assistant Editor :
Gustavo Roman
Visual Effects Company :
Electric Theater Company
Visual Effects Supervisor :
Adam Watson
Lead Flame Artist :
Adam Watson
2D Artist :
Gretchen Capitan
2D Artist :
Dave Damant
2D Artist :
Krystal Chin
2D Artist :
James Aguilar
Visual Effects Producer :
Adriana Wong
Executive Producer :
Kate Hitchings
Producer :
Kala Sherman
Composer :
Joe Spalina
Mix Company :
Mixer :
Noah Woodburn
Photographer :
Art Streiber
Producer :
Brooke Ludi
1st Assistant :
Elaine Browne
Director :
Andreas Nilsson
Sound Design :
Music :
New Math

Need a credit fix? Contact the Creativity Editors

Project Type