Popeye’s 5-Star Ad has an Unusual Hero – Its Home City


We don't make sense. We make chicken.


This is a 5-Star ad where a city is the star.

Of all the elements in advertising praised in Orlando Wood’s Lemon and Look Out for stimulating right-brain attention, one of the most interesting is a strong sense of place. Commercials without a sense of place can feel flat, abstract and unreal. A sense of place gives an ad depth and breadth. It creates a context which the audience can latch on to, drawing attention, building interest, and sparking emotional response.

Popeyes is a QSR franchise, with over 3,800 stores worldwide, from Bucharest to Jakarta. It would be easy for its ads to feel like they’re set in a generic globalized anyplace. But Popeyes are smarter than that. They know their New Orleans heritage is one of their most powerful brand assets, and in this ad they tie themselves back to their home city and its cooking traditions.

“We Don’t Make Sense” – Popeyes’ first work with new agency McKinney – talks about New Orleans first, referencing its geography and its Mardi Gras traditions to a soundtrack of one of the city’s other great exports, brassy funk music. New Orleans is eccentric and proud of it – it does things its way because it can, even if they don’t “make a lick of sense”.

And Popeyes, says the ad, is just the same, with its long marinades and hand battered chicken a tradition that doesn’t make sense in a category dominated by automation and bland efficiency. But Popeyes is like New Orleans, and knows the parts that don’t make sense are often the parts that matter.

It’s such a great way to frame an appeal to heritage and authenticity, at the same time as subtly reinforcing some core product messages about the brand’s chicken. The ad is packed with funky vibes and vivid characters, led by a charismatic actress who isn’t a celebrity but has the confidence of one. And it’s steeped in a sense of place and tradition, which will get that right-brained attention and give the brand a deeper context.

In our Test Your Ad platform, Popeyes’ ad scored an Exceptional 5.1-Stars, a really excellent start for the brand’s new positioning. The Spike score, predicting short-term sales impact, was also Exceptional, and Brand Fluency was Strong. In fact, the only thing the ad gets wrong is its title. In branding terms, “We Don’t Make Sense” makes perfect sense.

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