POTHOLE ADVERTISING

Just when you think the corporate branding of public spaces couldn’t get any more crass – along comes KFC, the fried chicken chain.

Just when you think the corporate branding of public spaces couldn’t get any more crass – along comes KFC, the fried chicken chain.

Drive through the streets of just about any American city, and you’ll find schools, museums, parks, stadiums, and all sorts of other public facilities plastered with corporate names, ads, and logos. That’s bad enough, but now KFC is putting its ads on the streets themselves.

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In a gimmick cooked up with city officials in Louisville, Kentucky, the chicken chain is paying to fill in some of the potholes in the city’s streets. In return, the corporation gets to stencil a gaudy ad on each pothole, declaring “Re-freshed by KFC.”

Believe it or not, KFC actually insists that it is filling the streets with ads out of a sense of civic duty. But it is more self-puffery than public service. While noting that more than 350 million potholes riddle America’s streets, KFC donated a mere $3,000 to Louisville – which is not going to plug many potholes.

Meanwhile, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which frequently rattles KFC’s cage over its mistreatment of the birds that produce the corporation’s profits, made its own offer to Louisville officials. The devilish pranksters of PETA put up $6,000 – double KFC’s payment – to fill twice as many potholes, in exchange for putting a PETA ad atop each one.

Apparently, though, not all citizens are equal in Louisville. The mayor, who had effusively praised KFC for creating “innovative public/private partnerships like this pothole refresh program,” turned chicken when PETA presented its innovative pothole partnership. No, he clucked to the group.

Pay attention, folks, for your town could be the next one to get plastered by KFC. The company says it is now looking for four other “lucky cities” to accept its pothole ads.

“KFC Now Filling Potholes… With Ads,” www.motherjones.com, March 27, 2009.

“KFC Colonel and Road Repair Crew Take Advertising to the Streets to Re-‘Fresh’ America’s Pothole-Stricken Roadways,” www.yahoo.com, March 25, 2009.

“Filling Potholes in Exchange For Advertising,” www.nuwireinvestor.com. , April 1, 2009.

“Metro Government declines PETA’s pothole patching offer,” www.wave3.com, March 30, 2009.

“Battling the bastards is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.”

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