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The KFC Diabetes Campaign and Other Misguided Charitable Donations

By (view all posts by Allegra.Ringo)
at 8:54AM Wednesday June 29, 2011
under Newsworthy

Image courtesy of Chris1051 via Flickr

If you've been looking for a way to support diabetes research in the most ironic way possible, a KFC location in Utah has just the ticket. When you purchase KFC's Mega Jug of soda, they'll donate $1 to diabetes research. Assuming you don't get a diet soda, the half-gallon beverage contains an estimated 800 calories and 56 teaspoons of sugar.

Not surprisingly, the campaign has drawn a lot of criticism. A spokesman for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the organization benefiting from the KFC campaign, pointed out that Type 1 diabetes--which is what the JDRF researches--is not linked to diet or obesity. Fair enough, but I'm not sure that gives KFC carte blanche to contribute to the alarming rates of Type 2 diabetes in the United States.
As many bloggers have pointed out, why couldn't KFC have tied their diabetes campaign to a healthier food product?

Here are four other examples of well-intentioned but poorly thought-out charity campaigns.

1. Keep a Child Alive's Celebrity "Deaths"

In 2010, various celebrities participated in a campaign called Digital Life Sacrifice to raise money for Keep a Child Alive, Alicia Keys' charity. The celebrities pledged to sign off of all social media accounts on World AIDS Day, December 1st. They would remain signed off until donations to Keep a Child Alive reached $1 million. This campaign would have been perfectly lovely if not for its constant comparison of dying to staying off of Twitter and Facebook for a day. Celebrities made "last tweet and testament" videos, and shot ads in which they lay in coffins to symbolize their "digital death." As someone who lost a loved one to AIDS, I find this campy, "lol-not-tweeting-is-death" approach pretty tasteless. I can only imagine how I'd feel if I lived in a country where HIV was a much greater epidemic.

2. Botox's "My Expressions of Kindness"

In 2010, Botox launched their "My Expressions of Kindness" campaign, which asked Botox enthusiasts to create a profile on the company's site and post about acts of kindness they'd performed. For each post, Botox would donate up to $250,000 to one of several charities. This is by the least offensive campaign on this list, but I can't help snickering at the company's decision to include the phrase "expression" in the project's title. As some bloggers pointed out, it's a pretty laughable choice for a company known for freezing people's faces into, well, expressionless-ness.

3. PETA'S "I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur"

I've written about PETA's exploitative campaigns before, and so has most of the Internet. PETA receives much-deserved flak for pretty much every one of their desperately attention-seeking crusades, perhaps most famously the "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" campaign. The campaign features billboards, magazine spreads, and various other photos almost-nude photos of celebrities, sporting the text "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" or similar slogans. Many people argue that the link between fur trade and nudity is tenuous at best, but PETA stands by their ends-justify-the-means tactics, arguing that "sex sells." Such nuance!

4. KFC's "Buckets for the Cure"

Okay, maybe it's not fair to go after them twice in one post, but leaving out KFC's breast cancer research campaign would have been a glaring omission. For every pink bucket of chicken purchased, the company would donate 50 cents to Susan G. Komen for The Cure, a prominent breast cancer research foundation. The problem is that fried foods have been linked to cancer, which makes the whole campaign sort of self-defeating.  True, the buckets could be filled with grilled chicken instead, but KFC's grilled chicken is still not the healthiest choice. Buckets for the Cure drew criticism for "pinkwashing," the practice of "putting a pink cancer-awareness ribbon on products that are bad for health."

What are some other ironic or otherwise ill-conceived charity campaigns you've heard of? Let me know in the comments.