Witness the improbable marriage of grease-pusher KFC and the Susan G. Komen Foundation, who have united under the inelegant banner Buckets for the Cure in a bid to make “the largest single donation to end breast cancer forever.” In their television ad, diners are encouraged to purchase a special pinkwashed pail of the Colonel's chicken–part of a well-documented culture of trash food consumption linked to health problems ranging from hypertension to heart disease and severe obesity. KFC will make a donation to the Komen non-profit for every bucket sold.
Even the Buckets for the Cure website makes me ill. Minor key piano chords tickle obsequiously while you spin a virtual chicken bucket and browse user-submitted stories about fighting breast cancer. The staggering hypocrisy of KFC's PR stunt is made more apparent when you consider it's riding the deep-fried coattails of the Double Down, the 540-calorie meatwich that evolved from rumor to internet meme to wildly successful menu item.
Setting aside for a moment the question of who at Komen blundered into partnership with a target as soft as KFC, Yum! Brands, KFC's corporate parent, and its cadre of marketing gurus deserve to be lambasted for such an offensive con. This is not an attack on KFC's deleterious cooking so much as redress for a long history of lying to the public regarding the purported health benefits of its product, a ruse Yum!'s Taco Bell arm has also perpetuated. Bob Garfield, veteran media critic for Advertising Age and co-host of NPR's On The Media, observes:
[KFC is] the serial phony immortalized in some of the most stunningly dishonest marketing efforts of the past 10 years. First it tried to foist 'deep fried' as 'slow-cooked.' Then, in what at the time seemed like the lowest of the low, it positioned its menu as health food.
Six years ago, Kentucky Fried Chicken agreed to a Federal Trade Commission settlement barring the company from making any health claims whatsoever without explicit scientific evidence to support them. Of course no such evidence exists, so KFC has resorted to an insulting and disingenuous association with the pretty-in-pink Susan G. Komen Foundation to delude fast-food consumers yet again.
As the public's bile has risen–and not from downing an entire bucket of Extra Crispy–the ads have been stripped from the airwaves and all that remain on YouTube are parodies, most as difficult to stomach as the campaign they hope to deflate.