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…+

AdWatch: Apple, Maya Angelou and The Human Family

AdWatch: Apple, Maya Angelou and The Human Family

What do you say when you are a global brand? What do you say when your products are practically ubiquitous … shorthand for an entire class of technology? What do you’ve when your champions and critics have said nearly everything that could be said? You let a poet speak. You let a poet speak not…+

More from the Blog

Everything is a user interface. (Yes, even print.)

Everything is a user interface. (Yes, even print.)

Here’s a challenge that all marketers face … and it can be a particularly daunting one, particularly for those who are still developing their marketing chops. What, exactly should you be looking at when you’re assessing creative? There are about as many answers to that as there are people who look at creative. But there’s…+

Why Liberty Mutual is such a Good* campaign

Why Liberty Mutual is such a Good* campaign

There’s a campaign that’s been running for some time now. You’ve seen it, probably several times. Bet your first question was Are they really in front of the Statue of Liberty? not “How does it measure up on that scale of Good* advertising I saw on that blog? See? It really is Good* advertising, and here are…+

Advertising’s First Commandment? Thou Shalt Not Be Creepy

Advertising’s First Commandment? Thou Shalt Not Be Creepy

Okay, so David Ogilvy never said this, but if he had lived to see the spot below, he just might have: Unless you are flat-out trying to attract creeps, you should avoid any possibility that your advertising will be viewed as creepy. Are you listening eHarmony? If you haven’t seen this one yet, prepare for…+