Darrell Hammond Is Colonel Sanders in W+K’s Big New Campaign for KFC

A throwback's view of modern culture

Boy, howdy, have things changed."

That's Colonel Harland Sanders, 35 years after his death at age 90—but reincarnated in the form of ex-SNL star Darrell Hammond—weighing in on modern culture in Wieden + Kennedy's first advertising for KFC, on its 75th anniversary.

The Colonel, the face of the chicken chain and always a valuable asset, is front and center in the major new campaign. He places the needle on an old LP in the introductory spot, which tells you exactly where this is going: The old Colonel is here to riff on the differences between the old days and this crazy new world of millennials—in ads frequently punctuated by an exaggerated chuckle that Hammond has come up with.

It's an interesting approach, getting a comedic actor to play your most classic icon. And the first spots are notable not just because of the Colonel's return but because of the concerted oddness of the execution.

In the minute-long "Bucket in My Hand," the Colonel walks down a clogged highway, around an empty baseball stadium and up to a swimming pool lifeguard—handing out chicken and singing an off-kilter anthem with lyrics that frequently don't rhyme. In the 15-second "America's Favorite Music" ad, he raves about mandolin music.

The goofy humor is clearly meant to drag the Colonel into the modern age, without completely sacrificing his legacy. Even Hammond's stock quotes are a mix of reverent and tongue-in-cheek.

"In my line of work I've been able to do impressions of a lot of interesting people. But Colonel Sanders? He was a really fascinating guy," Hammond says in a statement. "His lifelong entrepreneurial spirit and integrity are two things that drew me to him. He never gave up. It's an honor to bring to life such an iconic figure … and it doesn't hurt that KFC is paying me in chicken (which, at the time sounded like a good idea, because I was very hungry that day)."

The TV spots will break next Monday. The campaign extends to web, social media and in-store experiences. The digital work includes a new KFC.com and ColonelSanders.com (the latter includes the Hall of Colonels, an interactive digital experience that tells Sanders' life story). There will also be new menu items, packaging and store designs.

"The Colonel has always been at the core of everything we do here at Kentucky Fried Chicken," says Kevin Hochman, KFC's U.S. CMO. "The 75th anniversary is the perfect time to give him back to the people and remind everyone of what we're all about."

Packaging:

 

Store design, exterior:

 

Store design, interior:

 

CREDITS

Client: KFC

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.

—Spot: "State of Kentucky Fried Chicken Address" :45

Agency: W+K Portland

Creative Directors: Karl Liberman, Eric Baldwin

Copywriter: Karl Liberman

Art Director: Eric Baldwin

Producer: Hayley Goggin,

Production Assistant: Nicole Kaptur

Interactive Strategy: Mike Davidson, Teresa Lai

Social Strategy: Matt Hisamoto

Strategic Planning: Britton Taylor, Lizzie Hanner

Media/Comms Planning: Alex Barwick

Account Team: Jess Monsey, Jesse Johnson, Kristin Postill, Alexina Shaber

Business Affaires: Alicia Willet/Karen Crossley

Project Management: Chenney Gruber

Executive Creative Directors: Joe Staples / Mark Fitzloff

Head of Production: Ben Grylewicz

Production Company: Joint

Director: Karl Lieberman + Eric Baldwin

Executive Producer: Patty Brebner

Line Producer: Shelli Jury

Director of Photography: Eric Edwards

Editorial Company: Joint Editorial

Editor: Nick Davis

Post Executive Producer: Leslie Carthy

VFX Company: Joint