KFC’s Colonel Sanders Heads to France With a Tin-Ear Accent and Old Spice-ish Adventures

Meet the man on the bucket, Frenchies!


Sometimes you encounter an idea whose time has come. That doesn’t make the idea good.

Case in point: Twice in as many weeks, a famous American face has dived into the French market with strong “We come in peace” vibes, pioneers for their ilk, zealously shilling our two favorite types of food—junk and fast. Both men are charged with explaining the merits of their brand in great detail. And both do it with a wretched accent.

Because it’s funny! 

We’re still reeling from Owen Wilson’s hopelessly fumbled French on behalf of Oreo, which has perhaps proven so awkward for everyone involved that viewing rights for the ad itself are not available outside France. (Been a long time since we’ve seen somebody try shoving the internet genie back into its box.)

Now, with warm regards from Sid Lee Paris, we give you KFC’s Colonel Sanders.

Unlike Burger King, whose long absence from the French market transformed the brand—and its king—into a fetish, KFC has existed in France since 1991. Weirdly, though, it hasn’t taken advantage of that time to plug Colonel Sanders, who infects our childhood memories like an Inceptioned oil spill.

Today, 26 years after the launch of its first restaurant, just 3 percent of French people even know who Sanders is.

Until now.

The Colonel’s hitting the road, Kerouac-style!

The video above, directed by Jeff Low of La\Pac, debuted Sunday on French network TF1 and served as the country’s first introduction to the mysterious man on the bucket. Gone is the round, friendly face of actor Christopher Boyer, who currently plays the Colonel in the U.S. This guy, whoever he is, is sleepy-eyed and kind of intense.

After overhearing two Frenchmen discuss his chicken with indifference, he embarks on a journey from Kentucky to France, confronting the kinds of challenges that only The Most Interesting Man in the World—or at the very least, Old Spice Guy—should be allowed to engage in.

All this so he can tell the French in person why his chicken, with its 11 herbs and spices (seasonings of such glorious lore), is so special. “Nature gave man 10 fingers,” he says at one point. “I’ll give you one good reason to use them.” That’s some titillating innuendo, sir.

“Our hope is to make Colonel Sanders a real pop-culture personality in France,” explain Sid Lee Paris creative directors Céline and Clément Mornet-Landa. (Off-topic: Cute how these two not only share a last name but speak like a Greek chorus.) “It’s an incredible opportunity to be able to tell the story of such a persona.”

Awkward, then, that it feels so derivative.

The Colonel’s triumphant voyage over alligators, etc., with bucket in hand (now available for Bitcoin!) was supported by an outdoor campaign announcing his arrival, a Twitter Uptime activation that tweeted every minute over the hour preceding the film’s launch, and an interview with pop culture site Konbini (yet to appear).

A handful of French KFC employees also got to meet the Colonel in-person for a keynote.

“More than an ad campaign, our objective is to put forth a genuine storytelling about Colonel Sanders and his recipe, and to set it up through a privileged exchange between the brand and French people,” says KFC France marketing director Pascale Laborde.

Think that accent will improve? Probably not.

Agency: Sid Lee Paris
Client: KFC France
Ad Title: Colonel Sanders
Chief Creative Officer: Sylvain Thirache, Executive Creative Director
Brand Supervisors: Frédéric Levacher, Pascale Laborde, Sophie Lacroix, Cécile Lequeux
Creative Directors: Céline and Clément Mornet Landa
Agency Supervisors: Johan Delpuech, President; Mehdi Benali, Managing Director; Héloïse Marchal, Account Director; Benoit Fernandes, Account Manager
Copywriter: Simon Lamasa
Art Director: Sophie Dherbecourt
Head of Strategy: Benoit Pellevoizin
Strategist: Patrice Zamy
Head of Production: Thomas Laget
Agency Producer: Marine Redon
Production Company: La\Pac
Producer: Delphine Guerin
Director: Jeff Low
Director of Photography: Martin Ruhe
Music: Sanjiv Sen
Music Producer: Schmooze
Postproduction: Mathematic
Postproducers: Jane Jamaux, Paul Crehange

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