Conscience versus Commerce

Colonel Saunders

When photos emerged recently of KFC’s famous but dead, brand ambassador, Colonel Sanders, shaking hands with President of the UN General Assembly Ali Treki, you could have been forgiven for thinking that the international peace and security organisation may have been getting in to the Halloween spirit a couple of days early.

Or, more likely, that this was yet another prank by a media outlet to see if they could breach some of the tightest security in the world.

Remember the Osama Bin Laden look alike who was mistakenly granted access to the APEC summit? Or the “Fake Sheikh” saga created by News of the World?.

What I didn’t expect was that this elaborate stunt was masterminded by the KFC brand itself.

Why did KFC do it? As part of the fast-food giant’s attempts to promote its new menu range, KFC decided it would be a great PR idea to lobby the UN for the fictional ‘Grilled Nation’ to be accepted as a member state.

I am all in favour of PR stunts to help draw attention to a cause or campaign.

Done in the right way, they can increase awareness and provide that vital chat-factor many initiatives need to grab headlines.  And this stunt undoubtedly got headlines.  Consequently, it did succeed in drawing attention to the brand’s new menu – and no doubt KFC’s PR agency will claim a victory on that basis. 

Morally however, you could argue this PR stunt crosses the fine line between funny and offensive.

Taking on an organisation like the UN tasked with saving lives and promoting humanitarian efforts around the world and involving it in a PR stunt for pure commercial purposes could be seen as demonstrating a serious lack of respect for what the UN does and what it’s set up to achieve.

It’s akin to using an Amnesty International conference as a forum for a bed manufacturer to push everybody’s right to a good night’s sleep… Borderline appropriate.

This stunt would have worked had the platform or target been different.

Even a spoof campaign lobbying the government or a Member of Parliament would have succeeded in drawing attention to the campaign in a non-cringe worthy way.

KFC and its agency needs to remember that when it comes to PR stunts, conscience should win out over commerce.

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