When Yum! Brands' (NYSE: YUM ) KFC chain launched its latest advertising campaign, management must have known it would be controversial. Claiming, with a straight face, that fried chicken is healthy is enough to make just about anyone incredulous. KFC probably didn't bank on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) taking such an interest in its ads, though.
According to TheWall Street Journal, the FTC has asked KFC (I feel a compulsion to add additional acronyms to this sentence, but I'm refraining) to justify the claims it makes in its commercials. One spot touts the chicken's low carbohydrates and high protein, while another compares a KFC chicken breast's fat content to a Burger King Whopper's fat levels. As noted in the Journal, the ads that focus on carbs and protein have a disclaimer about KFC not being "low fat," and the ads spotlighting the chicken's fat content carry a different tiny type faced disclaimer that leaves out the fat bit.
To be fair, the ad about the carbohydrates and protein makes it clear (at least to me) that that's all the company's talking about. And the "fat" one doesn't say that fried chicken is low-fat in a vacuum -- it's lower fat than a Whopper. That's kind of a "bad, but not as bad as the worst" comparison. I chuckled at both commercials, though, because it does seem ridiculous to me that the company would try this route.
The nutritional value of fast food and the skyrocketing rates of obesity in America continue to be touchy issues. It's not particularly surprising, then, that the government would be interested in KFC's claims. McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) and Wendy's (NYSE: WEN ) are also feeling heat about how healthy (or not) their foods are, but as of yet, neither company has introduced a similar marketing campaign to KFC's.
The FTC's interest in the ads will probably be over whether or not they mislead consumers. Maybe it's just the skeptic in me, but I can't imagine that anyone was really convinced that chowing down on fried chicken is a healthy way to eat day in and day out. Still, the FTC likely won't be as amused as I was by the ads. For its part, KFC has already moved on, and is starting a new ad campaign the day after Thanksgiving.
What do you think? Was KFC intentionally trying to mislead people? Or are the ads a fair representation? Talk it over on the Yum! Brands discussion board.