Ad of the Day: KFC Turns to Two Boys for a Lovely Take on Sports Fandom

Dealing with the agony of defeat

In recent years, BBH London has focused on family relationships and offbeat stories in its KFC ads, with the product almost as a side dish and strong storytelling as the main course.

That trend continues in "Fans," a new 90-second spot in which we meet two young boys in Scotland who root for opposing soccer teams. (OK, football teams.) One is a fan of Stirling Albion. The other likes Dunfermline. It's a conflict on par with Scottish succession.

On this particular Saturday, the teams are playing each other, and the kids head to the game—one accompanied by his dad, the other by his mom. It can only end one way, with surprising emotional ramifications for both children.

The commercial is expertly shot by Full Monty director Peter Cattaneo. It has a documentary/indie-film vibe, owing to location filming and the fact that the two boys were "street cast" from local football academies.

The central conflict is the kind of silly yet semi-serious problem lots of parents can relate to. And the twist ending doesn't feel like too much of a stretch. (Indeed, BBH often handles such tricky reveals quite skillfully.)

On the downside, a couple of wee lads are going to have tummy aches tonight.

BBH's Hamish Pinnell spoke to Adweek about the work.

What's the message here?
The KFC bucket is great tasting, sharing food that breaks down barriers and invites everyone to get stuck in. And this time there's an added treat—a Brownie bucket.

BBH has really focused on the family experience for KFC, with the food being kind of secondary at times. Can you expand on that a bit?
Everyone loves a good human story and identifiable characters and universal truths set against an original but authentic backdrop. The trick with storytelling in commercials is integrating the product naturally. We always start with a product truth and a consumer insight and then write from there. It's also important to show people enjoying the food in a realistic way.

Of course, BBH has done a notable trick ending before. Were you consciously trying to repeat that success?
No, I don't think so. In this instance we needed to create a bit of tension for our sharing moment to play out against. As a viewer you've been on a journey with the boys, you get to know them, see their passion for the sport they love and feel the despair of losing. You're emotionally connected, and by the time the KFC hits the table, you're rooting for them to make up.

Do you worry that ads with twist endings are best viewed once, then folks turn away the next time, because they know the reveal?
I think the twist ending works well here because of the indie/docu style of the film. Real teams, real fans, beautifully shot by Peter Cattaneo. You enjoy the performances and get a real feel for grassroots football. The last thing you expect is a twist, and when it does arrive, it's as understated as the rest of the film. The performances of the boys also make it so enjoyable to watch that it doesn't matter if you know the ending the second time around.

Clever twists can also help get media coverage. Did that play into the creative equation here?
We never intentionally set out to write work with surprise endings, but I guess it is a technique that audiences appreciate when done well. And it helps work stand out from the crowd, which is important because it is more memorable.

Client: KFC
Marketing Director: Meghan Farren
Marketing Manager: Jeff Singer
Senior Brand Manager: Maria Dogin
Agency: BBH, London
Creative Director: Hamish Pinnell
Strategist: John Jones
Strategy Director: Debra Ladd
Business Lead: Sian Cook
Team Manager:  Helen Campbell-Borton
Team Director: Leo Sloley
Producer: Jodie Sibson
Assistant Producer: David Lynch
Production Company: Academy Films
Director: Peter Cattaneo
Producer: Juliette Harris
Director of Photography: Florian Hoffmeister
Postproduction: The Mill
Editing: Nik Hindson, The Assembly Rooms
Sound: Dan Beckwith, Factory