KFC Confronts a Crisis Down Under

Thom Weidlich 01.23.20


We have long admired and commented on Kentucky Fried Chicken’s deft crisis communications. For example, in 2018, it was lauded for its response to a supply-chain nightmare in the U.K. This week the Yum! Brands brand faced a smaller ruckus of its own making in Australia. Its response isn’t attracting the same laurels.

The problem stems from a 15-second ad the company made. The spot depicts a young woman in a low-cut blouse checking herself in the reflection of the window of a parked car, which she assumes is empty. As she admires herself, the window rolls down to reveal two smirking boys and an aghast woman, presumably their mother (pictured). Embarrassed, the preener asks, “Did someone say KFC?”

Almost a million people have watched the ad on KFC Australia’s YouTube channel, and it’s garnered a lot of press. That’s partly because Collective Shout, a group that fights against the objectification of women, protested vehemently in a statement on Tue., Jan. 21 (in Australia; it was Monday in the U.S.).

We apologize if anyone was offended by our latest commercial.


“Ads like this reinforce the false idea that we can’t expect better from boys,” spokesperson Melinda Liszewski said in the statement. “It is another manifestation of the ‘boys will be boys’ trope, hampering our ability to challenge sexist ideas which contribute to harmful behavior towards women and girls.” The group pointed to previous KFC ads that were found to be problematic.

KFC’s response showed it didn’t take the objections seriously. It issued a “sorry if you took it the wrong way” non-apology. “We apologize if anyone was offended by our latest commercial,” it said. “Our intention was not to stereotype women and young boys in a negative light.”

And that was that.

‘Sincere Apology’

Except Collective Shout immediately blasted the brand once again — pointedly tweeting back at its apology: “@KFCAustralia what was the intention? You know what stereotypes are, did you believe they were positive stereotypes for women and young boys? A sincere apology for your actions and clarity on pulling the ad would be preferable to apologizing for other people’s reactions.”

It appears the brand will not be commenting further.

@KFCAustralia what was the intention? You know what stereotypes are, did you believe they were positive stereotypes for women and young boys?

— Collective Shout

We’re surprised KFC’s response has been so dismissive. As we say, the brand has been more astute in the past (though in different parts of the world). We have noted its deft responses to being falsely accused of asking a disfigured 3-year-old girl to leave a restaurant, to a fake “fried rat” story, and, especially, to the supply-chain snafu, for which it won awards.

We’re pretty certain it won’t be winning any awards for this one.

Photo Credit: KFC via YouTube

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