KFC Ad Campaign Draws Fire From CSPI
Group Asks Feds to Crack Down on Deceptive Healthy Eating Claims
November 7, 2003
KFC is the target of a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), thanks to the restaurant chain’s new ad campaign that seeks to persuade the public that fried chicken is a healthful food. The complaint was filed today by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which urged the agency to force the ads off the air.
In one ad, a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken is presented as one couple’s attempt to begin “eating better.” A bucket of fried chicken has 3,090 calories along with vast amounts of saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium (and most KFC outlets fry chicken in hydrogenated shortening, which results in harmful trans fats). The ad displays nutrition statistics for smaller amounts of chicken, including—laughably, says CSPI—pieces with the skin removed. A second ad gives the impression that eating fried chicken is responsible for a man’s “fantastic” looks—presumably due to weight loss, since the ad posits that fried chicken is for those who are “watching carbs.” Both ads flash brief, tiny, low-contrast, and virtually illegible disclaimers confessing that fried chicken is not a “low fat, low cholesterol, low sodium food.” But CSPI says the unreadable small print does not undo the deception caused by the big print.
“KFC takes what could be a perfectly good food, and makes it almost as bad for you as possible, short of covering it in melted cheese or cream sauce,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “These ads don’t tell the truth. These ads take the truth, dip it in batter, and deep fry it. Colonel Sanders himself would have a hard time swallowing this ad campaign.”
The campaign also drew the ire of an editorial in Ad Age magazine. They wrote that the ad campaign “damages the credibility not just of KFC but of the entire marketing industry.”