The videos play on common spiritual tropes, and — Rod Meade Sperry reports — are just about as weird as mass-marketing gets.
And now — as they say — for something completely different.
Fast-food behemoth KFC has launched a series of six long videos that play upon meditation and Eastern-religion tropes, as well as visuals and ideas that come from counter-culture and the modern trend toward secular mindfulness. These “Comfort Zone” videos, which are meant to sling KFC pot pies, range from three-plus to about nine minutes long, and are, I think it’s safe to say, just about as bizarre as advertising to the masses gets. (The videos are the work of Wieden + Kennedy, an agency renowned for its willingness to be weird, but these take things up a notch.) They blend highbrow and lowbrow, philosophical references and stoner humor.
That this kind of well-funded and brazen co-optation is coming at us from a mega-corporation (KFC is a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, which also owns Pizza Hut and Taco Bell), much less a problematic one that serves animals en masse and has a dubious track record in animal welfare, isn’t it itself surprising. But, again: the content here is so out-there.
For example, in one video, the narrator’s soothing voice (which recalls for me a logy Alan Watts) counsels us that, after unwrapping our sporks, we should “take the extra plastic and throw it as far away from you as possible. Mother Earth will recycle it as future sporks.” (Did I mention that KFC isn’t exactly beloved for its environmental responsibility, either?) And from there the video turns into a lesson on duality and non-duality. Really. Kind of.
Again, really no surprise. As AdWeek reminds us in their coverage of these videos, “Remember when Don Draper had his epiphany at the meditation retreat? [. . .] The appropriation of meditation techniques for consumerist ends is very Draper-esque—Don’s spiritual awakening in Mad Men, of course, being little more than his discovering a new way into a better advertising pitch.”
Oh yeah, I remember that well. It was a like a Dharma-Burger origin story. (A Dharma-Burger being “any example of Buddhist thought or imagery that’s been co-opted or otherwise infused into advertising or marketing—and, therefore, pop/mass-culture.”)
But I’m sure I’ll never forget these trippy and — on the surface, at least — fun ads, either. To this Buddhist media follower, they are somehow the worst thing ever and the best thing ever simultaneously.
Another little lesson on duality and non-duality, that.