KFC’s attempt at humouring the nation by launching an ad campaign under the strapline “What the Cluck?” has been battered and fried by the ad watchdog for causing offence.
The activity, devised by Mother, ran on outdoor sites and in The Sun and Metro newspapers and was designed to promote the fast-food chain’s lunch menu. It stated: “What the cluck?! £1.99 Fill up lunch, until 3pm every day” alongside an image of food items on a menu.
However, 40 complainants failed to see anything remotely amusing about the play on words and rifled off their grievances to the Advertising Standards Authority, arguing that the ad’s reference to an expletive was offensive and might be seen by children.
In its defence, KFC insisted the word “cluck” was simply an onomatopoeic reference to the noise made by chicken and the ad was a continuation of a KFC campaign which had launched on TV and radio. This activity featured the same phrase and real sound effects of a chicken, in place of the word “cluck”.
The company also claimed it was unlikely that children would make any connection between the words “cluck” and “fuck”.
The ASA was not impressed, however. Banning the ad from appearing again, the watchdog stated: “We considered people would interpret [the word ‘cluck’] as alluding specifically to the expression ‘What the fuck’.
“We considered that ‘fuck’ was a word so likely to offend that it should not generally be used or alluded to in advertising, regardless of whether the ad was featured in a newspaper which had an adult target audience.”
A KFC spokesperson said: “We’re disappointed but respect the ASA’s ruling. That wording’s been removed and we won’t be using it again.”
Even so, this is not the brand’s first run-in with the public over the use of expletives. Last year, the regulator received 13 complaints about an ad which featured the letters “FCK” on an empty chicken bucket and apologised for the closure of hundreds of restaurants following a chicken shortage. On that occasion the ASA did not investigate.
Quite what the brand’s founder, Colonel Harland David Sanders, would have made of it all is anyone’s guess. But Sanders’ mother, who was said to have been a devout Christian and strict parent would likely be turning in her grave. According to one biography, she continuously warned her children of “the evils of alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and whistling on Sundays”. What the cluck, indeed.
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