This week, KFC issued a public apology for telling German customers to "treat themselves" on Kristallnacht in a mobile app alert.
It was reported the Yum Brands chain sent out the insensitive notification on Wednesday.
"It's Kristallnacht Memorial Day! Give yourself a treat by adding more soft cheese to your crispy chicken. At KFCheese now!
In November 1938, Nazis carried out pogroms against Jews in Germany and Austria known as "Kristallnacht" or "the night of broken glass." Some people regard it as marking the start of the Holocaust.
The alert, according to KFC, contained "an obviously unintended, insensitive and unacceptable message."
The message was sent via the company's half-AI (artificial intelligence) messaging system that ties into national observances.
Reactions were pretty quick to roll in—from shocked to angered.
\u201cI'm not sure what else I can say about this that doesn't include expletives.\u201d— Daniel Sugarman (@Daniel Sugarman) 1668008386
A whole vein of commentary was along the lines of "this is what AI gets you."
\u201c@BBCWorld "We'll automate our marketing. What could go wrong?"\n\n\ud83e\udd23\u201d— BBC News (World) (@BBC News (World)) 1668088513
\u201c@Daniel_Sugarman What happened there is automation. Basically a system automatically creates codes and offers and then you tie it to a database of holidays. Now what happens if you really need a LOT of them? You take a big database of noteworthy days and... Well, this stuff here happens.\u201d— Daniel Sugarman (@Daniel Sugarman) 1668008386
\u201cPeople say that AI will replace writers. \n\nThis week KFC had to explain why they linked their chicken with Kristallnacht\u2026 after they started using an AI writing app. Welcome to job security, writers?\u201d— A. H. (@A. H.) 1668329643
\u201cThis is an absolutely outstanding example of just how spectacularly *bad* semi-automated marketing rooted in ~principles of marketing~ is and I'm genuinely in awe as to just how badly they screwed up but how inevitable it was with the direction of travel https://t.co/NR4kgUBrqS\u201d— Another Angry Woman (parody) (@Another Angry Woman (parody)) 1668104617
\u201cI can tell you exactly what probably happened here:\n-someone on a six figure salary and/or a consultant taking a five figure fee created a ~strategy~\n-the strategy suggested automating promotions based on notable dates\u201d— Another Angry Woman (parody) (@Another Angry Woman (parody)) 1668104617
\u201c-someone (on a much lower paygrade) was tasked with creating a Calendar\n-the Calendar was plugged into their social feeds\n-the magic automation and algorithms worked, until they absolutely didn't\u201d— Another Angry Woman (parody) (@Another Angry Woman (parody)) 1668104617
\u201c@BBCWorld Not the Social Media staff's fault. Not the Bot's fault. The result of corporations cutting corners/costs. Expect more of this to come as AI takes over everyone's job.\u201d— BBC News (World) (@BBC News (World)) 1668088513
Others commented on the Antisemitism of the act, which almost goes without saying in such an obvious mistake, but should be pointed out. To add insult to injury, the app's suggestion of a chicken and cheese meal dies not adhere to Kosher dietary laws, or is known as "tref."
\u201c@swodinsky on top of EVERYTHING ELSE it's tref?\u201d— shoshana wodinsky (she/her) (@shoshana wodinsky (she/her)) 1668096640
Finally, there were those who came up with other, similar blunders that could happen if the AI chose a different day of national importance for a notification.
\u201c@Murphles44 @BBCWorld Did you grab that $9 / 11 piece bucket back in September?\u201d— BBC News (World) (@BBC News (World)) 1668088513
\u201c@BBCWorld Who runs this PR department? The Pearl Harbor 2 for one chicken bucket should be coming up in December.\u201d— BBC News (World) (@BBC News (World)) 1668088513
\u201c@swodinsky Panda Express is offering 50% off general tsos chicken in honor of the anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre\u201d— shoshana wodinsky (she/her) (@shoshana wodinsky (she/her)) 1668096640
Not the best look for KFC, or for the usefulness of AI marketing bots.