22 September 2010

KFC Pays College Women for Ad Space on Buns

USA Today

KFC wants folks to watch its backside.

Or, more precisely, the backsides of female college students it's recruiting to promote its hot new bunless Double Down sandwiches.

Women on college campuses are being paid $500 each to hand out coupons while wearing fitted sweatpants with "Double Down" in large letters across their rear ends.

The promo comes as KFC is in the doldrums domestically. The world's largest chicken chain's U.S. same-store sales fell 7% in the second quarter. Nearly all its growth now is in international expansion.

Last week, the chain confessed that more than six in 10 Americans ages 18 to 25 — the chain's key demographic — couldn't identify who Colonel Sanders was in the KFC logo.

Now, it's turning to cute women parading around campus with "Double Down" emblazoned across their fannies.

The nation's largest women's group doesn't like it one bit. "It's so obnoxious to once again be using women's bodies to sell fundamentally unhealthy products," says Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. What's more, she says, KFC has forgotten something important: Women make more than half the decisions about what to eat for dinner.

But KFC marketing chief John Cywinski says it's an effective way to catch the attention of young men — KFC's key customers and the biggest fans of Double Down.

As of Tuesday afternoon, KFC had received no complaints about the campaign, KFC spokesman Rick Maynard says. "We've taken a page out of the book of some apparel companies and sororities who have promoted in this way for years," Maynard says.

The program began last week at Spalding University in downtown Louisville. The chain plans to expand it to at least three more campuses. The additional schools and the women there will be picked via a Facebook promotion.

The stunt hasn't reached Colorado State University — and senior public relations major Candace Carlucci hopes it never does. "It may be funny, but it's also inappropriate and degrading," she says. "There must be another way for KFC to get its message out."

Brand guru Jonathan Salem Baskin says there's nothing "inherently wrong" with using women to attract guys, but in this case, "It's irrelevant to the product." KFC would do better, he says, to follow the McDonald's model: "Clean up your stores, fix the menu and please people with the food you make."

One point of confusion, he jokes: "I guess the buns do come with KFC's sandwich."

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