Dining Out Magazine

KFC UK and McDonald’s USA Both Take About a Minute and a Half to Sell You Chicken Cinematically.

By Keewood @sellingeating

In a world where people watch only what they want to watch, two companies must use the devices of cinema to sell chicken.

So yeah. That’s some lovely visual story-telling. And it isn’t implausible at all that the dad might deliver a bag of KFC to share with his son (of whom he’s so damn proud), hungry as the boy must be after all that hanging-on. And since this is a UK ad, they’re just playing into the world’s concept of Americana. I must point out, though, by way of educating my colleagues across the wide ocean, there are so many brands who can claim small-town Americana institutional rights that Dad might also deliver a bag of Wendy’s or Subway or Arby’s or (the company who might have done an ad like this in the old days) McDonald’s, but that’s not my point today (maybe tomorrow).

My point today is: Who do they think is going to watch a minute-and-a-half-long chicken restaurant commercial? It’s not a movie trailer, it’s an ad.

Wow. Those are some inspiring chicken parts in that bag.

Wow. Those are some inspiring chicken parts in that bag.

It’s closing in on 150,000 views after about a week. Factor out people like me, who watch it so they can talk about it, and that’s still a fair number of voluntary ad-watchers. Still. Can we really expect a bunch of people to watch an ad that doesn’t do much more than tell a nice story?

What about this? Who’s going to watch this commercial that’s three times longer than most commercials?

This ad is relying on Lettermanesque, almost-Jackassian stunt-fascination to keep you involved—and if you watch ads for a living, it is more engaging than most. (Yes, we’re in an era where the DIY mentality is so strong you might as well just edit your own version of this advertisement.)

I have two quibbles: One is, I think that in both cases, we’re bringing outside interest to a product that I still don’t think I understand the benefit of. It feels stuffy for me to say that, but I’m just willing to bet the average viewer is not much more likely to choose one of these sandwiches after having mildly enjoyed the diverting entertainments. That doesn’t mean the diverting entertainments are not well done. It means they haven’t figured out a reason for me to change my pre-existing opinions about the kind of food they make and the sort of products they come up with.

Secondly, I think Chipotle has set a dangerous example. Their movie-trailer-length advertisements were doing something that these two are not: they were making a point. The point of those Chipotle stunts was news, and it had substance, and they challenged conventional beliefs about how business has to be conducted. (My favorite is the first one with the Coldplay song; I find it moving, convincing, thought-provoking and actionable; the second is splasher and flashier and might have made a bigger impression on the world in general, but I find it manipulative.)

Since Chipotle has success with the longer format, the temptation for other restaurants is to follow their lead as hungry customer eyes move from the constraints of :30-second ads on TV and internet pre-roll to this opt-in, social-media-driven kind of movie-trailer-type ad.

The only problem: without an important or compelling point, you’re relying on everybody being really, really bored—so bored they’ll deliberately watch an ad from a major corporation.

Why should they remember to go to KFC or McD after the ads end? Because they’re close to one, maybe—just down the dusty road?

Should viewers buy chicken out of gratitude that these companies invested so much into their entertainment?

I’m dubious.

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