McDonalds and KFC. A tale of two fast fooders.

McDonalds and KFC. A tale of two fast fooders.

Recently my attention landed on a couple of spots for two of America’s greatest exports: McDonalds and KFC. These two creative executions come from two different worlds, and are about as distinct as any two commercials you might imagine. So, the inevitable question is …

Who did it better?

One of these spots works well as actual make-you-buy-it advertising, the other one is a classic branding piece. Still, at the end of the day, both of these global brands are in the business of increasing same-store sales. And, if you believe the trades, that is something Mickey is struggling with these days.

So, what that in mind, once again, the question is … who did it better?

I’m not talking about the high-mindedness of the concept, or the excellence of the art direction, or the “wow, that was pretty neat” factor, either. I’m talking about which of these two spots might inspire a middle class family of four, like mine, to make a meal of it.

First, there’s the wonderful, whimsical McDonald’s spot

Creatively, this is a grand slam. It has great, earwormmy music, wonderful animation, the power of other iconic brands and a lovely and, for this client, unexpected level of concept.

This spot, and the campaign, succeeds at making me love the golden arches just a little more …

Next, let’s look at this hard-working slice of life effort on behalf of KFC

This is everything the McDonald’s spot is not. And that, my friends, is not necessarily a bad thing, and here’s why. The KFC spot gives me a valid reason — an excuse, if you will — for picking up a meal at KFC. My family deserves a break today (sorry, couldn’t resist) from the inevitability of the supermarket rotisserie chicken. Do we eat ’em? Of course we do! And I bet you do too (but I hope they are a little more appetizing than the grey bird KFC uses).

And, you know what? I may not eat every meal at KFC. Heck, I’d NEVER eat every meal at KFC. But I am definitely open to using their tasty birds as an alternative to the mounds of chicken my family already eats.

The advertising works – and works well, in my opinion – because it is built on consumer insight and the good old problem/solution model. The next time we pop open the dome on a rotisserie chicken, I am likely to think “Dang, I could have had a KFC!” There is a call to action in this spot, and that what makes it work.

And that’s just what the McDonald’s spot, for all its charms and executional brilliance, is lacking. What, exactly, is the action that commercial is inspiring me to take? To find my arch-enemy and take him or her for a Big Mac? I’m not Richard Nixon or even Sheldon Cooper, so my enemies list is pretty short and, the last time I checked, there are no arch enemies on there at all. So, while I smile warmly when I see two hated rivals sharing some fries, will it make it any more likely that I will get in the car and drive to get some?

Probably not.

But, maybe they don’t care. After all, as Deborah Wall U.S. Chief Marketing Officer for McDoanld’s “We believe that a little more lovin’ can change a lot, even the world we live in. Lately, the balance of lovin’ and hatin’ seems off. Who better to stand up for lovin’ than McDonald’s.”

An admirable sentiment (and an expression of tremendous confidence in the power of your brand to change the world) but will it sell any more burgers and fries?

And, even if that isn’t its intent, is today’s world really waiting for Coke to teach the world to sing again? Can that lightning strike again?

The moral of the story is … there’s a place in this big bad advertising world for branding and for advertising. Just make sure you know which one you want to do. I’m betting McDonald’s wants it to sell more burgers, not just make me feel good.

Case Studies

Bringing Together 2 Iconic Brands

Bringing Together 2 Iconic Brands

When Capital One acquired ING Direct (INGD), the opportunity was great … and so was the obligation. ING Direct was not a typical business, nor was it a typical brand. The brand’s success was the result of intentionally differentiating itself as much as possible from the way other financial institutions presented themselves. And, as relatively…+

Case Study: 35% Response Rate

Case Study: 35% Response Rate

How do you get a 35% response rate on direct mail? (How about 40%?) I was showing some of my past work to a prospective client the other day, and I happened to pull out a dimensional mailing we did years ago for Nordstrom … the one that got nearly 40% response when it was…+

More from the Blog

Why the best Creative Directors are Pedestrian Thinkers.

Why the best Creative Directors are Pedestrian Thinkers.

Everyone in advertising and marketing has a tough job … constantly asked to do more with less, and engage consumers who just really don’t want to be bothered. But Creative Director is a uniquely challenging role because it demands two types of thinking that don’t generally go well together. To be successful, a Creative Director…+

The Demands of Sales vs. The Importance of Brand

A few days ago, a friend asked me a question that really got me thinking. (That seems like a total BS excuse to just go ahead and write a blog post, but I assure you, it really happened.) And no, it wasn’t from Mr. Richard Fader of Fort Lee, NJ, either … The question actually…+

4 things you can do RIGHT NOW to improve your creative process

4 things you can do RIGHT NOW to improve your creative process

If I had a time machine and could go back to visit the younger me, I believe he would be bewildered and dismayed by my later-in-life embrace of process. He’d rail at me at how creative people – you know, the really creative people – won’t let themselves be restrained by a set process. He’d…+