- KFC is pausing its latest "Finger Lickin' Good" campaign in the U.K. amid concerns that ads encouraging customers to lick their hands are ill-timed amid the global spread of the novel coronavirus, The Drum reported.
- The ads were pulled after 163 people reported the spots to the U.K.'s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), saying they were not appropriate at a time when public health officials are stressing hand-washing and not touching your face.
- Out-of-home (OOH) placements and a content series on "finger lickin' etiquette" were scheduled to run over the next few months, but will return at a later date, a brand spokesperson told The Drum. KFC's ad campaign goes back to the 1950s and has been updated regularly over the past several decades.
Effects from the COVID-19 outbreak have trickled into the advertising and media business over the past two weeks as the illness traverses the globe and governments take precautions to mitigate its spread. In response, brands like KFC must adjust their campaign messaging or risk coming across as tone deaf during the pandemic. Ads perceived as insensitive or ill-timed could potentially face backlash among consumers and leave a bad taste in their mouths regarding the brand.
Hershey and Coors recently pulled ads that could have been seen as insensitive under the circumstances. The Hershey's effort, which had already launched, focused on spreading joy by sharing candy with strangers and giving them handshakes and hugs. The message directly contradicts the current public health warnings of social distancing, encouraging the candy brand to pause the effort.
Coors planned to launch an ad titled the "Official Beer of 'Working' Remotely" around March Madness, but will now run a more "product-focused" spot. The ad comes as many people are working from home to avoid catching or transmitting the virus. Encouraging people to drink beer when they should be working is off-color in the current scenario, especially now that the NCAA has canceled this year's March Madness tournament.
As advertisers pull back on their messaging and major sporting and industry events are canceled, it remains to be seen how the industry will be affected. Zenith, the ad-buying agency owned by Publicis, recently lowered its global ad spending forecast for 2020 from a previous projection of 4.3% growth in December to account for effects of the new coronavirus.
Brands must monitor the situation closely and navigate messaging in order to avoid negative associations. Beer brand Corona upset some consumers on social media for a new campaign promoting its alcoholic seltzer line with the tagline "Coming Ashore Soon."