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KFC has named MullenLowe as its U.S creative agency of record following a hotly-contested review that began in September. KFC’s account value is worth $20 million which means it is a giant win for MullenLowe Group.

KFC U.S. announced last year that it had begun a review of agencies for its lead creative spot. At the conclusion of the process, MullenLowe was selected as KFC’s new partner due to their orientation toward modern communication, especially in digital and social channels. New York-based Fig was believed to be the other finalist in the pitch, which was conducted by Select Resources International and was winnowed down from a range of agencies that included Johannes Leonardo, FCB and Arnold. Wieden+Kennedy previously held the account since 2018.

KFC confirmed the win. MullenLowe and Fig weren’t immediately available for comment. This news comes a month after Publicis’ Spark Foundry was named KFC’s lead media agency following a separate review that included WPP’s Wavemaker along with Interpublic Group of Cos.’ UM.

MullenLowe was selected as KFC’s new partner

MullenLowe is the latest world-class agency to join KFC’s talented and effective integrated agency team, which includes Spark Foundry (media planning and buying), Edelman (public relations), BASIC (digital) and NIMBUS (multicultural creative).

“MullenLowe is an agency that is moving at the speed of culture and is well-versed in 360-degree campaigns across full-funnel marketing channels,” said Nick Chavez, chief marketing officer of KFC U.S. “They understand the consumer, the consumer’s needs, and how to shift consumer behavior. With the addition of MullenLowe, we now have a complete integrated agency team that I am confident will help drive the brand and the business to new heights in the U.S.” Chavez said.

The U.S. is a critical piece of the chicken chain’s overall business, accounting for 18% of KFC’s sales in 2020. It ranks just behind China, its largest market, with 27% of sales. The Yum Brand chain’s U.S. systemwide sales are on the rise: They increased 11% in the first six months of 2021, while same-store sales, a key metric that tracks performance at longstanding locations, rose 12%. Third-quarter U.S. same-store sales rose 4%.

KFC has been decreasing its advertising budget over the past few years. For the year ending in September 2021, the brand spent $98.4 million in U.S advertising, down from $116.6 million the year prior, and $162.6 million in 2019, according to Kantar.

Last month, KFC rolled out its new plant-based “Beyond Fried Chicken” offering nationwide with the help of YouTube star and influencer Liza Koshy. In November, KFC appointed Nintendo veteran Nick Chavez as its new chief marketing officer following the departure of Andrea Zahumensky in April.

KFC rolled out its new plant-based “Beyond Fried Chicken”  

“KFC has created some of the most iconic creative that the world has ever seen, and we’re incredibly excited and honored to partner in their next chapter of growth in the U.S. Most importantly, we look forward to putting the joy of eating KFC at the center of our work”. Kelly Fredrickson, president of MullenLowe Boston, said “At every stage of the process our aim was to get better and smarter. This win is a fantastic endorsement of the team’s ability to dig deep into the customer culture and to participate in the conversations they are having with each other to truly drive behavior change,” Fredrickson added.

This is a significant win for MullenLowe, which was named creative agency of record for TJ Maxx last year.