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Plucky PR counters chicken FCK-up

Reach (PR)

Agencies: Freuds and Mother London
Client: KFC

Chicken is not only THE reason people visit KFC, it's what the C in the brand name stands for. So when you run out of your key ingredient and are forced to close 80% of your restaurants, you're heading for PR calamity, right? Wrong! In February 2018, UK ad agency Mother, PR firm Freuds and US-owned brand KFC out-classed King Midas, turning the proverbial into gold.

After news broke that a supply problem meant restaurants were turning away angry customers deprived of their deep-fried chicken fix, KFC’s PR machine went into overdrive.

Initial comms kicked things off to a good start, including apologetic, yet humorous tweets, such as "the Colonel's working on it" and the "chicken crossed the road, just not to our restaurants". There was fun to be had when one angry woman told a TV reporter that she'd "had to go to Burger King". Cue a social media bidding war of free meals between the two rivals.

Transparency and honesty ran through KFC’s handling of the entire crisis. KFC UK chief marketing officer Meghan Farren has since said she was given total autonomy, with US head office happy for the UK team and agencies to have complete control.

But not only did the trio of organisations manage the crisis with PR genius, once things had calmed down KFC again responded with humor, but a serious point. "FCK. We’re sorry" read Mother's ad.

With a modest budget but bang-on-message PR and advertising that was a masterclass in audience engagement, KFC's crisis management captured the essence of the cliche that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Although the ad appeared just once in two papers, it was shared 219 million times and reached an estimated 796 million people through coverage.

The campaign has won two Gold and a Silver Cannes Lions.

Make like a chicken and cross your next big creative road by partnering with UK talent