Ad of the Day: KFC

Is the chicken chain overreaching by trying to be too artful?

It's still a long way from fine dining, but KFC suddenly seems interested in providing an aesthetic experience. At least, in its advertising. At least, overseas. Last month, we took a close look at BBH London's gorgeous backyard-picnic spot for the chicken chain. Now, we get this charming yet peculiar piece from Ogilvy South Africa that, like the BBH spot, trades heavily in nostalgia—but this time with mixed results.

It opens with a grand shot of an enormous tree, its leaves and branches bristling in the wind—setting a subtle genealogical tone for what is to follow. Next, we see an elderly woman opening a second-story window off the balcony of her quite ornate-looking house. Some kids are eating KFC on a bench below. The woman catches a whiff of the food, smiles wistfully and turns back from the window—and into the arms of her husband, who, it appears, is suddenly in the mood for dancing. As the couple waltz through their home, they get younger and younger, Benjamin Button style, as Ellie Goulding's version of Elton John's "Your Song" plays. By the end, they're two kids again, lying on a bed—as the girl simply says to the boy: "I'm hungry."

It's a nice idea. There is, after all, a primal connection between the sense of smell and one's episodic memory. The reverse-aging thing is done skillfully, too. And the music suitably plucks at the heartstrings. The only trouble is, unlike the BBH spot, which was beautiful but rough around the edges, here the mood just feels too refined for the brand. Fried chicken is something you'll eat on a summer night with friends and family—but it's not the cycle of life. Thus, both the product cameo at the beginning and the logo at the end feel tacked on—and weirdly out of place. Plus, it borders on the comical to suggest, even metaphorically, that KFC reverses the aging process.

A brand has to already be elegant in some way to shoulder the burden of a sweeping, life-encompassing message like this. The British retailer John Lewis did it better in last year's commercial that covered 70-plus years in a woman's life in 90 seconds—but even that felt like reaching.

This time, KFC has just bitten off more than it can chew.

Client: KFC
Spot: "Lifetime"
Agency: Ogilvy, Johannesburg, South Africa
Executive Creative Director: Fran Luckin
Creative Director: Mike Martin
Agency Producer: Liske Van Tubbergh
Agency Art Director: Alexa Craner
Copywriter: Irene Styger
Production Company: Bouffant
Director: Erik van Wyk
Producer: Shannon Gloyne
Producer: Melina McDonald
Director of Photography: Tim Pike
Production Art Director: Julie Bonnet
Postproduction Company: Upstairs Post
Postproduction Editor: Kobus Loots
Visual Effects Company: Sinister Post
Music Company: Sony
Postproduction Online: Sinister Post
Postproduction Online: Pudding/Blade
Postproduction Offline: Upstairs