KFC's Double Down is Brilliant (And No, I'm Not Sticking That Thing in My Mouth)

Evil genius.
I hope whoever runs the marketing division of KFC gets a bonus to rival a hedge-fund director's this year. Because he or she is a genius for getting R&D to come up with the most disgusting sandwich ever invented.

New York is all a-twitter about the Double Down, which launched today ― if you're one of the two people in the universe who haven't seen the ads, the D-squared is a bunless sandwich of two fried chicken cutlets with cheese, bacon, and the "Colonel's Sauce" in between. Within hours of one another, today the New York Times' restaurant critic, the Village Voice's restaurant critic, and Salon's food editor all reported having survived the experience. "It is, in all," the Times' Sam Sifton concluded, "a disgusting meal, a must-to-avoid." Tack on another $50K to the marketing VP.

A few days before Salon's Francis Lam chronicled every bite of the sandwich, his colleague, Thomas Rogers, posted a smart little interview with a food industry consultant who acknowledged that the sandwich was a stunt. "Freak shows are disgusting but everyone seems to want to go to them anyways," he said. "When there's an accident on the highway everyone gapes."

When was the last time the New York Times and the Village Voice wrote about the same restaurant on the same day? The worse we in the blue-state media declare the sandwich is, the better its reputation among the daredevils who are going to order the thing to prove, well, something.

KFC seems to becoming the master of negative-spin buzz. The last time the fast-food chain attracted this much press was in May 2009, when its Oprah-publicized "grilled" chicken giveaway turned into a debacle. Crushing publicity, you'd think. But no, less than a year later the Nation's Restaurant News reported that full-year 2009 sales were up 7.5 percent over 2008. 

So here I am, joining in the Double Down frenzy; the cynical reader might accuse me of capitalizing on the brouhaha myself to garner a few clicks. (I admit nothing.) KFC, you're welcome to a little extra San Francisco press coverage. I'm just not going to waste valuable belly space to do it. Give me a tub of Popcorn Chicken instead.

Follow us on Twitter: @SFoodie. Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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