Thousands Pause For Chicken

Wall Street Journal reports that KFC successfully used a form of subliminal advertising to drive traffic to its stores.

The fast-food chain’s spot was designed to circumvent Madison Avenue’s latest nemesis: digital video recorders that make it easy for viewers to skip ads. A single frame contained a code word — “Buffalo” — which viewers could use to claim a coupon for a free “Buffalo Snacker” KFC chicken sandwich. Only viewers who used their DVR, or an analog video cassette recorder, to slow the ad and watch it frame by frame could see the code.
To ensure viewers would know when to pause their DVRs, KFC announced details of when the ad would run — including in which programs, such as Fox’s “24” and CBS’s “Survivor.” That ensured the spot got lots of publicity: 250 mentions in the media, KFC estimates, including from some TV stations that ran the commercial free as part of a news report.
Did the idea work? KFC thinks so. Roughly 103,000 people claimed “Buffalo Snacker” coupons after entering the hidden code on KFC’s Web site, the fast-food chain says.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. too bad kfc can’t use subliminal advertising to convince people their product isn’t shit.