KFC’s “Assvertising”–A Double Down of Unhealthy Cues

September 22, 2010 Would you like a sideorder of sexualization with that heart attack?

If the excess sodium from KFC’s Double Down innuendo-laden sat fat monstrosity doesn’t raise your risk factor for high blood pressure, ergo cardiovascular disease, heart failure, kidney disease, and stroke, then the college co-eds selling their buns for the bunless will surely jolt and spike your EKG nicely eh? Welcome to toxic ethics in marketing, American style, where ‘anything for a buck’ trumps public health, and self-exploitation is shrugged off as normative, or worse yet, as ‘third wave fem.’

“Butts as billboards” have been plastered in brandvertising for years with Victoria’s Secret  PINK, and Juicy and American Apparel on down, but now we have a new kind of foul…HIRED SPOKESBUTTS. (‘brand ambassadors’ riiiiight) It’s “assvertising” recruitment. Selling body parts to hawk junk food. Wanna buy a breast or a thigh next, colonel? Where’s the line here people? Oh, right, there ISN’T one.

To think, it was only about a year ago when I applauded KFC and Yum Brands for offering nutrition info and adjusting menus for healthier fare in this piece, “Fast Food Chains Are Slowly Getting Healthier, Yum?”

Now? Well, Yum is one of the companies that has not yet even responded much less acted upon FTC self-regulation in advertising, so it’s quite clear to me now that they take a ‘hands off’ view to the concept of ad ethics. Duh. No ‘hands off’ ‘ involving the co-eds though, nosirrreee.

According to Adweek’s blog, AdFreak, “The chicken chain says it hopes to use assvertising to “tempt fellow students” into trying the fried-meat monstrosity that only a frat boy or freshman could love. “On select college campuses,” the press release says, “female undergraduates will sport KFC Double Down branded sweatpants to encourage students to try the unique bun-less sandwich.”

“The gig pays $500, in case that helps you swallow your pride like a pile of greasy hen flesh. The promotion kicked off this week in Louisville, Ky., and will soon hit three more campuses. You’re asked to apply on the KFC Facebook page, presumably through a wall post.”

And what wallposts they are…sigh.

It’s hard enough raising girls amidst meat marketing of an everpresent ‘hottie’ appearance-based culture,  but asking them to participate in their own sexploitation? ugh. To be fair, there are plenty of broke and burly greybeards vying for coupons on the fan page and households asking them to ‘lower the price’ of this foul thing, so the economic incentives go far beyond co-eds wanting free sweats and ogling eyes to compete for the ‘privilege’ of their school being ‘chosen’ for a few select jackpots of $500 per buttski.

Here’s how kids are eagerly hawking themselves for a piece of the action in their words on the KFC Facebook wall:

Excerpted from “The Order of the DoubleDown” FB page,:

“CoFC rules at Indiana University of PA. Crimsons Hawks love Double Down chicken… Rock out with your hawk out!

“I am going to BELMONT UNIVERSITY in Nashville, Tennessee! We definitely know all about that Southern Fried Chicken, and would definitely spice up those Double Down sweat pants! Please make me and my school girls an Ambassador! “


“University Of South Florida!! 🙂 almost 20,000 hungry males go here! and About 48,000 students total!! Pick Me/Us!!!”

“I will gladly allow you to appropriate my buns.”

Anyway, you get the drift…

Here are a few more ethics gaffes worth clucking about:

1.) The name of the product alone. (Urban Dictionary leads with the sex act, followed by the gambling term, either one for co-eds brings a whole new meaning to ‘fast’ food)

2.) Selling sexualization, girls’ safety not a concern. KFC’s website brazenly crows about their use of “gluteus ad maximus” to go after their key target of young men proud of their “advertising firsts, befitting the Double Down’s head-turning history” by positioning the buns and booty objectification as a commodity item for a price. It’s “free agency,” right? No one’s holding the girls’ feet to the fire to cash in on the deal, hmn?

Hold on there…anyone want to connect the dots between the APA Task Force on the harmful impact of sexualization on girls and the blurred lines between cultural cues of selling girls backsides as a ‘consensual’ deal?

Could we STOP for a moment and consider cultural context on campus? How about corollaries with incidents like the gang rape photos that went viral on Facebook last week with the 16 year old girl in Canada? Reminder: why were the other teens interviewed on cam nonplussed and shoulder shrugging? Because even though the victim was incoherent on date rape drugs “she said stuff”with the implication being she therefore ‘had it coming?’ Ugh. Now…KFC, let’s look at your liability here. Envision these KFC girls walking around campus in red sweats with DoubleDown on their backsides (again, see Urban Dictionary) amidst the type of crass, raunchy behaviors we’re creating in our pop culture as we continue to ‘make monsters out of boys’ and cluck about campus violence and date rape escalation, since there’s now apparently dismissiveness and  ‘confusion’ as to what these behavioral cues ‘mean.’

Caveat emptor co-eds, this ain’t Kansas anymore. Is your mental and physical health worth only $500? If that’s your self-appraisal, head to ReachOut.com and get yourself some help.

3.) Virally marketing ‘die young’ dares.

KFC wants to ‘entice’ fans and ‘challenge their friends’ on the Double Down Facebook page, prompting kids to eat the “Greater Food” and virally market it to their friends, despite the fact youth are already at triple their intake and it’s one of the biggest killers in America.

But hey, no prob…KFC thinks it’s fun and funny to ‘dare’ each other with negative approaches along the lines of ‘try til you die’ sucker.

4.) Disregard for trickle down impact on younger girls. KFC apparently didn’t get the memo that this strut your stuff/junk in your trunk behavioral crud is taking its toll on elementary school aged children. As NYU Child Study Center writes in this piece The Sexualization of Girls and Mental Health Problems, Is There a Connection?

Think about:

* a 5-year-old girl wearing a T-shirt that says “Flirt.”
* the advice given in magazines to preadolescent girls on how to look sexy and get a boyfriend
* print advertisements that portray little girls with pigtails and ruffles in adult sexual poses
* popular dolls in miniskirts and fishnet stockings advertised during Saturday morning cartoons

Is it any wonder that, starting at an early age, girls may believe that their value depends on their so-called sex appeal? What can be done to help girls develop a healthy self-image?”

5.) Health schmealth, flip ’em the bird.

Even though the heart association (pdf) and IOM and CSPI all recommend US Dietary Guidelines be amended to reflect a 50% decrease in daily intake of sodium for all Americans, not just ‘at risk’ groups, to 1500mg (one Double Down and you’d be whacked over the limit for the day) KFC persists with gleefully sophomoric defiance, as if to blow a corporate raspberry at the food police with a ‘prepare to die’ motto marketed as aspirational.

Just ducky.

It’s all just plain foul to me.

Special thanks to Ryan Turner for pointing me to this atrocity, and high hopes for the newly appointed American Heart Association Director of Digital Media Andre Blackman who blogs about public health at Pulse + Signal, who will hopefully use the power of AHA/social media to counter-market this crud pronto. Andre, call me, I have some ideas here…

Related Reading

Ladies, Who Wants To Rent Their Ass Out To KFC?  (The Frisky)

Hey Hot College Girl! KFC Wants to Double Down on Your Buns (COED mag)

KFC Advertises Bunless Sandwich on College Co-Ed Buns (HuffPo)

At KFC, A Woman’s Butt is a Human Billboard, Worth $500 (bnet)

Related Reading on Shaping Youth:

Sexualization & Objectification—Selling Girls/Girls Selling Out

Bottom Feeders Like American Apparel Need Whacked In The Assets

Girls Are Not Candies, Tweens Are Not Teens

Commodification of Kids: The Backlash Has Begun

So Sexy So Soon: Amy Jussel Talks With Jean Kilbourne

Body Blitz: APA Shows Harm of Early Sexualization

Steamed About Sexualization? Healthy Media for Youth Act, Now!

Healthy Youth Media Act Pt2: Can Change Be Legislated?

Help SPARK A Name For The Sexualization Summit

Sexualization Summit: Save The Date: 10-22-10 NYC

I’m Not A Prude, But…

Gossip Girl Sweeps, Predictably Trashy

Raising Girls Amidst Meat Marketing: Carl’s Jr, Burger King Raunch

Taking Aim at Target: Think That V is a Coinkydink?

When It’s Not Hip to Be Square, Sexist Spongebob & Burger Shots

Sexed Up M&Ms Sell Fashionably Decadent Premium Sleaze

Mama’s Got A Brand New Bag…Er…Face. Nose. Belly.

Body Blitz: APA Shows Harm of Early Sexualization

Body Image: Tips for Teens (Both Genders!) To Survive the Media Morass

What Sells: Infants As Fashion Statements & Joke Props?

Beyonce’s Dereon Divas: PopTarts and Sesame Streetwalkers?

Sexist Undies: Slimy Santa Innuendo Gets the Heave Ho-Ho-Ho!

Bratz Movie Seeps Bratitude Into Kid Culture

Pussycat Dolls Vamp for Lame TV-the ‘F’ Word is Feminist? Hardly.

Celeb Pop Culture and Media’s Tipping Point of Toxicity

Hollywood Walk of Lame—Victoria’s Secret Models ‘Earn’ Star? For WHAT?

Mommy, Why Are Her Legs Spread Like That?

Shaping Youth Is In the L.A. Times Today, Yawn

Kids Are A Captive Audience With Ambient Advertising

Shaping Youth Through Ambient Advertising

Manga Makeovers And Other Body Image Cartoon Capers

Facelifts for Kiddie Characters?

Gender, Race & Sexism: Shaping Youth Through Pop Culture Cues

Girls As Boy Toys Takes an Even More Toxic Turn

Preteen Tips/How to Say it To Girls

America the Beautiful: See it. Support it.

Childhood Matters Radio Show: Raising Strong, Healthy Girls Today

Teen Girls, Ready For A Rebel Yell? SPARK anti-sexualization 10-22-10

(see more in our body image, growing up too soon archives)

Shaping Youth’s Highly Recommended Reads

So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids Diane E. Levin and Jean Kilbourne

Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers’ Schemes (Packaging Boyhood, Oct 2009;  S.Y. Board Advisors)
Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown

Sexual Teens, Sexual Media: Investigating Media’s Influence on Adolescent Sexuality Jane Brown et al (Eds)

APA Task Force on the Early Sexualization of Children (full 72pp pdf)

SexTech: ISIS-Inc. Conference/Resources

Girls Shape the Future: Study/Girls Inc: Early Predictors of Girls’ Adolescent Sexual Activity (summary: 8 pp pdf)

Resource List from So Sexy So Soon

CCFC Fact Sheet on Sexualizing Childhood

CCFC Two-Page pdf of stats & resources on sexualization

KFF.org “Sex on TV4″ Program for the study of media & health

Wellesley Centers for Women: Commentary on So Sexy So Soon

SPARKSummit’s Jehmu Green (Women’s Media Center) on hiphop/pop culture cues presented by white male execs, Gloria Steinem talks about ‘old days’ of females fearing for what they wear equating to who they are/assault. (Ironic cycles; history repeats itself?)And Katie Couric talks about whether women would rather be ‘hot’ than accomplished:



  1. Amy-
    I just re-read your post more thoroughly on the heels of working on my own post about desensitization/social sustainability/violence (not yet published,) and I find myself saying out loud to myself and now you:
    “We must combat issues such as this from a pure desire for a commitment to Social Sustainability.”
    I honestly believe our moral (and perhaps physical) survival depends on it.
    As human beings we are sliding down a slippery slope and the more people refuse to more than “cluck” about these kinds of issues the greater the velocity of said slide. There is a great deal more to social sustainability than economics and your blog post is one of many that bring that to light.
    As always I appreciate your information AND the fabulous way in which you share it.

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