Notes from the mediascape: KFC is no chicken in battle with Mel Gibson

After the actor, sporting whiskery facial hair, spoofed Colonel Sanders, KFC marketers decided to bite back on YouTube - with a little help from a mullet wig.

In a strange battle of the bearded guys, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) this week released a YouTube clip spoofing actor Mel Gibson and some of his most popular movies. The video is a response to Gibson’s appearance on late-night ABC talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live last month in which he starred in a mock Oscar movie promo as KFC founder Colonel Sanders, seeking revenge against chickens after his true love is killed by the birds. ‘I shall not stop until every last one of them is dead. Finger licking dead,’ Gibson declares in one scene.

KFC’s Kentucky-based marketing department, with the Canadian team based in Vaughan, Ont., saw an opportunity to use the accidental celebrity promo to show that their brand has a sense of humour, and is relevant to the 25-to-39 set they’ve recently been courting. Last weekend the teams posted a faux movie trailer starring Colonel look-alike Bob Thompson as Gibson in some of his most popular movies.

‘His passion captivated the hungry’ the movie voice states, as the Colonel overlooks a fields similar to that Braveheart. The trailer then cuts to Chicken Check Ransom, in which the secret recipe is stolen and the colonel offer wads of KFC cash to get it back. ‘Secret recipe, if you’re watching, I love you,’ he pleads. And, it wouldn’t be a Gibson spoof without Lethal Weapon, as a blonde mullet-wig sporting ‘Mad Colonel’ bites into drumsticks in Lethal Tongs.

Since the Tuesday launch the video has received about 50,000 views on Youtube. ‘We use social networking to get the word out about our brand and our products quite often,’ says KFC spokesperson Laurie Schalow. ‘Certainly there’s always a risk because consumers can post blog comments,’ she tells MiC. But overall, Schalow believes the benefits of handing the brand over to the consumer outweigh the risks.

‘Keeping the brand more top-of-mind, more relevant; showing that we have a sense of humour, that we are a fun brand. I think it builds that personality,’ she says. The marketing team has been promoting the video throughout entertainment media in Canada and the US, contacting shows that Gibson will appear on soon. They’ve sent a copy to the Jimmy Kimmel show, which has not yet aired the rebuttal.

‘Certainly if Mel Gibson responds we’ll get back in the game, but it probably will not continue. But you never know,’ says Schalow, optimistically.