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Zombies Taste Finger-Eatin’ Good to KFC

If the sight of a zombie chowing down gets your appetite up, then KFC’s custom commercial in the season finale of AMC Network’s Fear the Walking Dead hits the spot.

Fear, a spinoff from AMC’s The Walking Dead, the most popular non-sports show on TV, has proven to be a winner with viewers and advertisers.

KFC put down a big bet on the show and as part of the package obtained a special spot that aired during the finale.

“This was a sponsorship KFC really wanted to get behind. It perfectly coincided with what they were trying to do on-air,” said Scott Collins, executive VP for ad sales at AMC. “And we have a very strong brand creative team that works with our ad sales marketing team and they came up with that fun vignette.”

The spot takes place on the set of Fear the Walking Dead and a craft service worker has buckets of KFC on a cart and delivers some to actors in full zombie makeup. “Feeding a cast of ravenous zombies is hard work,” she said, pointing to KFC’s $20 Family Fill Up offering. “It’s a lot of good food for a great price and real meal that makes my zombie family a happy family.”

Collins said advertisers want to build integrations and custom content into to the first and last episodes of its big original shows. “People like to launch new creative or new originals in either premieres or finales,” he said. “There’s always a lot of demand.”

When a movie company has a new trailer, or a mobile phone company is rolling out a new plan, “we’re told we’re one of the go-tos,” Collins said, like the baseball playoffs or football. “It’s nice to be part of the top events that happen in any given quarter.”

Collins declined to say how much KFC paid for the ad. He said the quick-service restaurant brand had increased its spending on AMC. With a show like Fear the Walking Dead, “we’re getting good premiums, but it really takes a larger commitment in volume to win something like the vignette.”

According to published reports, spots in Fear the Walking Dead sold for nearly $400,000 per 30 seconds. That compares to the more than $500,000 The Walking Dead is getting for its upcoming sixth season.

Collins said advertisers have been pleased with the ratings performance of Fear in its first season. With Walking Dead such a powerhouse, “it wasn’t rocket science to know there was going to be interest,” he said.

Unlike the original Walking Dead, whose story line began after the country was overrun with zombies, Fear is set in Los Angeles, and follows a family as the outbreak is just getting started.

The premiere episode delivered a record rating for a cable premiere. It had a 6.3 liveplus-same-day rating among adults 18-49 and was seen by 10.1 million total viewers. It fell off a bit in subsequent episodes but the penultimate episodes on Sept. 28 drew a 4.3 demo rating and 6.7 million viewers. Those ratings make it a top show on cable, and one that eclipses many new broadcast series.

Ratings weren’t up to the level of the original Walking Dead, partly because it was launched in the doldrums of summer, he said. “It’s delivering what we expected it to deliver.”

AMC sold Fear in the 2014 upfront. The network sold season 2 in the 2015 upfront before the series made its debut.

“We’re very pleased to have it coming back for 15 episodes next year. It’s great to have it finally revealed,” Collins said. Even though the show hadn’t aired, he said “buyers didn’t give us a hard time with our estimates. They thought we were very reasonable. And you can see the success we’re having.”

Fear the Walking Dead is a key reason why AMC is one of a handful of networks whose ratings were up this summer.

AMC believes that having Fear on the air now will help keep up the momentum for the Walking Dead premiere on Oct. 11. “Fear is helping us launch the return of Walking Dead because we actually have original content leading into the premiere,” Collins said. “It’s a great moment in time that we’re going to have more Walking Dead programming throughout the year, rather than just in the fourth and first quarters.”

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.