The "Marketing Retrofit" Gag
One of my favorite marketing gags is the one in which marketing people take a huge creative success and attribute its success to some horseshit marketing process that was completely irrelevant to the idea.
Such is now the case with the famous “FCK” ad for KFC. Here's a quick recap for those who haven't seen it: KFC had a major delivery screw-up in the UK and ran out of chicken. They ran this wonderful ad…
The ad has won all kinds of accolades and awards. And, as advertising successes often do, it is now becoming some kind of bullshit morality lesson about client-agency relations.
An article in MarketingWeek recently informed us that this particular success…
“…highlights the importance of having an agency that really understands a business. Mother had been KFC's agency for less than a year when the crisis broke, but already felt fully integrated. That was possible because KFC immersed Mother in the brand, inviting it along to its restaurant general manager conference during the pitch, and within the first three months of working together taking the Mother team to its HQ for tastings, having them bread chicken in the kitchens and going to franchisee meetings.”
Give me fcking break. The reason this ad exists is that someone had a terrific fcking idea. It had less than nothing to do with breading a fcking chicken or going to fcking “franchisee meetings.” It was talent that created this ad, the rest is footnotes.
Believe me, I've been to about all the “general manager conferences” and “franchisee meetings” one human being can safely attend without spontaneously combusting. If there's anything in the world that will cause a saint to knock over an old lady's wheelchair it's a fcking franchisee meeting.
KFC's marketing honcho had this to say…
“…seeing agencies as ‘real business partners' has been key to the success of the relationship. All its agencies are fully integrated and tasked with working with each other and the KFC marketing team, while KFC invests time and budget in the relationship, holding quarterly breakfasts with agency heads and agency recognition nights, for example.”
Oh, puh-leeze. How many times do we have to hear this trite horseshit until we realize that creativity does not spring from quarterly breakfasts. It comes from one place only — talented people. Take a crappy agency and feed them all the breakfasts and recognition nights you want and you'll still get crap.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for agencies and clients working together as closely as possible. I am also all for agencies being treated with respect and held in high regard. And I commend KFC for this.
What I am against is the fantasy that creativity is the result of group hugs and harmonious collaborations. You want creativity? Hire talent. End of story.
I will leave the last deliciously cynical word on this subject to one of the most brilliant minds our industry has ever produced — the great Howard Gossage: “Never tour the factory. Never taste the product.”