To help stem the tide of viewers simply skipping commercials, KFC recently released an ad that lets viewers crack a hidden message if they replay the spot slowly on a digital video recorder or VCR. The reward for those who solve the puzzle: a chicken sandwich.
In the age of TiVO and other PVRs, advertisers increasingly need to use out-of-the-box techniques – whether it be scantily-clad women or "Magic Fridges" (See previous Marketing Matters post "Lessons from Super-Sunday") – to get people to watch their ads. With this new gimmick, KFC succeeds because the ad and associated puzzle is fun, innocent, and generates buzz independent of the ad itself.
However, with this new 30-second spot, some say KFC has gone beyond the bounds of propriety. For example, ABC has refused to air the spot, citing their rules against showing commercials with "subliminal advertising."
You be the judge. Warm up your PVR and tune in to FOX programming to watch Nascar, 24 and American Idol, CBS to watch Survivor, or TNT to catch some NBA games, or just surf over to KFC.com.