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At KFC, a Woman's Butt Is a "Human Billboard" Worth $500

KFC's offer of $500 to every "co-ed" who agrees to wear a pair of sweatpants that say "Double Down" across the butt is yet another example of an increasingly tiresome trend in which fast-food companies use women as sex objects in their advertising. I'm not being prudish (I did just call for the legalization of prostitution, after all) -- I'm just against low-rent ideas. And this promotion is as low as they come.

KFC's Double Down sandwich has no bun -- it's just an "actually pretty tasty" pile of chicken, bacon, cheese, and more chicken in a wrapper -- and therein lies the pun on which this promotion rests. KFC, a unit of Yum! Brands (YUM), is completely upfront about the fact it regards women as ad objects:

Via the creative on-clothing ad campaign, the chicken chain will recruit college co-eds to serve as "human billboards." On select college campuses, female undergraduates will sport KFC Double Down branded sweat pants to encourage students to try the unique bun-less sandwich.
The women in KFC's PR photo (above) don't even have faces. They're only useful for their butts.

Even the use of the word "co-ed" is code. Almost all colleges in the U.S. have been "co-educational" for decades, and good writing guidelines warn authors not to use it. Currently, the word exists predominantly as a shorthand in the porn world.

KFC isn't alone. In other recent fast-food ads women have been:

It's not just that these ads are sexist. It's that they're all sexist in the same way, and thus betray a lack of creativity and talent at the client and their agencies. KFC is trying to reach its "key target of young men" -- as all fast-food brands are -- which is why their advertising tends to be so unsophisticated. But it's never clear why KFC and its competitors believe their food is so sexy. And why sweatpants? Does KFC want to warn customers what will happen to their waistlines if they're tempted?

In fact, KFC isn't that sexy these days. Sales are down 7 percent in comparable stores, and the chain is embroiled in a civil war with its own franchisees over KFC's failed grilled chicken offering.

It'll take more than ass-vertising to fix all that.

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