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Yum Brands Ads Are Creative, But Will They Work?

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KFC targets locals with municipal fixes.

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Colonel Sanders' mug will soon be grinning on fire hydrants and extinguishers in Indiana.

Indianapolis and Brazil, a nearby suburb of about 8,600, will each receive $7,500 from Yum Brands (YUM), parent of KFC, to put the company's logo on fire suppression equipment to advertise its fiery chicken wings.

This is good news for cash-strapped local governments and may be a smart move for advertisers seeking to rise above the cascade of traditional advertising that has degenerated into little more than background noise for many prospective customers. But if KFC's move into non-traditional advertising is successful, it may take a bite out of billboard companies such as Lamar Advertising (LAMR) and Clear Channel Outdoor (CCO).

Either way, advertising is expanding beyond its traditional bounds and moving into subway stations and even university classrooms after conquering college sports with zingers such as Boise State's Taco Bell Arena, Texas Tech's Jones AT&T (T) Stadium, and the University of San Diego's Jenny Craig Pavilion.

KFC shrewdly turned a small expenditure into positive media coverage. Indianapolis will use the money to buy fire extinguishers and smoke detectors for city parks and recreation centers. The company contacted the town of Brazil after a local newspaper reported that many fire hydrants didn't work. The hydrants cost about $2,500 each and the Colonel's mug will appear on new fire plugs near the town's courthouse, VFW post, and post office.

Earlier, KFC spent about $16,000 to help fill potholes in Topeka, Kansas, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in Warren, Ohio, and in Louisville, Kentucky. A total of about 1,500 potholes were lettered "Refreshed by KFC" with paint that will last about a month.

The key: The viewer must instantly understand the relevance of the ad. Linking KFC's spicy hot chicken and fire extinguishers is a clever hook and is likely to stick in people's minds, but filling potholes looks so-so. Filled potholes and filled tummies? Huh?
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