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October 2014
Issue: March 1, 2006

KFC'S 'TOP SECRET CODE' CRACKED

By: Marc Loftus

CHICAGO – Agency FCB, here, recently came up with a marketing idea for client KFC that combats a television audience’s willingness to skip over commercials while promoting the restaurant chain’s Buffalo Snacker sandwich, and even rewarding astute viewers for paying attention in return.

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The :30 commercial was initially introduced several months back in an effort to promote KFC’s Buffalo Snacker – a 99-cent sandwich featuring chicken breast dipped in buffalo sauce, crispy lettuce and a sesame-seed bun. The commercial shows three fireman taking a lunch break and ribbing each other over who got the better 99-cent deal.

Chicago-based creative editorial and finishing house Optimus updated the spot, giving it its Top Secret Code persona. Those who pay close attention might be able to catch a glimpse of the hidden code - a word that passes by in just 1/30th of a second. By playing the spot back in slow motion and then pausing it on the frame, the secret code is revealed, which could then be entered at the KFC Web site to redeem one free Buffalo Snacker coupon. While the promotion concluded in early March, KFC’s Web site states that 75,000 visitors were clever enough to crack the code.

According to Ivo Knezevic, executive producer at FCB, the “embedded graphic” concept came from the agency’s planning department and was implemented quickly after it was conceived - in less than a week. The commercial aired for a little over a month.

Optimus owner/editor Scott Yurks says the execution of the graphic was actually quite easy. It appears in only one frame and was added to the spot using Discreet Smoke.

“Subliminally, it’s illegal,” says Yurks of the barely-visible code, “but since they marketed it, it was great. They did some print advertising with the frame blurred out.”

Yurks added the embedded graphic over a portion of the spot’s existing motion graphics, created by Brand New School in Los Angeles. The frame appears toward the end of the commercial as the recognizable southern guitar track from Lynard Skynard’s “Sweet Home Alabama” kicks in. The spot concludes with the tag line: “Heat things up for under a buck at KFC.”