Nando’s unleashes anti-secrecy bill #BlackTuesday campaign

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South African fast food chicken outlet, Nando’s, has come out yet again with a viral ad attempting to cash in on the latest big news topic. This latest one, cottoning onto the Black Tuesday campaign against the Protection of State Information Bill (referred to as the “secrecy bill”), may leave a bad taste in some people’s mouths — or at least the metallic hint of mercenary opportunism.

This ad, like the many others preceding it — the last one Memeburn reported on was published just after the the sentencing of Julius Malema — is nothing more than a quick quip in large text, and a longer blurb in smaller text. Normally a clever sting in the tale, now a clumsy bait and switch. “Ha ha”, it says, “You thought we’d drop the other one with a clever observation, but no, we just want to punt flame-grilled chicken!”

A more recent attempt, following the botched singing of the South African national anthem by Ard Matthews, was featured in a Memeburn piece on how viral marketing is about increasing positive brand presence by Jonathan Houston. It got kudos there.

The “Secrecy Bill” ad shows in painful relief the fine line between clever and smart-arse.

In the new ad’s creative, the primary “quip” text is blacked out. OK, we can work with that… The longer text below is a different matter. It is a message to journalists which reads:

The humour falls flat. That’s neither clever, nor witty, nor apposite.

In the face of this bill being something that may begin to unravel South Africa’s hard fought, won, and built democracy — which leading activists from Zackie Achmat to Zapiro have slated in the strongest terms possible — using this issue to sell chicken is risky. Even if only “tongue-in-cheek,” it could come off as crass, cheap and opportunistic.

Guess which side of the line Nando’s landed on.

Brands can and should latch on to topical issues, through social media or otherwise. Another leading South African brand, retail giant Pick ‘n Pay has been deft online.

On Facebook, the company changed its profile picture to its logo in black on a black background with the Twitter hashtag for the protests, #BlackTuesday. On Twitter it made similar changes to its page.

On both platforms it posted messages expressing support for the #BlackTuesday movement followed by a link to a statement from its General Manager, Gareth Ackerman.

Whilst Ackerman is almost certainly sincere in his opinions on the matter, as it may be with Nandos, this activity is clearly a social marketing campaign. Done well, it’s a win. Done badly. Ewwwwwwwww.

So what’s the difference between the two?

Instead of trying to sneak a mention for the “latest savings available at their stores”, Pick ‘n Pay realised the gravitas of the situation and treated it appropriately.

Nando’s has carved a niche in South Africans minds as the “funny” brand that’s not shy to take on sacred cows (sorry, chickens), and would want to protect that image. In a highly unscientific poll, all agreed that without the text exhorting journalists — many of whom are right now promising even to go to jail in protest of this bill — to write about chicken, the ad would have been perfectly fine.

The key to getting viral social media marketing using news stories right — just as with chicken — is getting the temperature right. Nando’s ad was way undercooked.

The bill was passed by parliament, and now journalists will be loath to write about state secrets, or flame-grilled chicken.

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  • http://twitter.com/geraldneves Gerald Neves

    You did just basically tell everyone about their flame grilled chicken. It is a serious issue but in the end the ad did what they wanted it to do….It ended up on places like memeburn. Right now I am off to get a chicken, cheese and pine burger. F████ Yeah!

  • http://twitter.com/geraldneves Gerald Neves

    You did just basically tell everyone about their flame grilled chicken. It is a serious issue but in the end the ad did what they wanted it to do….It ended up on places like memeburn. Right now I am off to get a chicken, cheese and pine burger. F████ Yeah!

  • Charles Ash

    I think the space which Nandos occupies as a brand allows it certain platitudes and liberties which many brands do not enjoy…this is what makes Nandos so special. I doubt anybody would begrudge Nandos for seizing the opportunity to punt chicken in spite of the serious nature of the matter at hand. The brand is irreverent and has a long history of not playing by the rules…they neither lose nor gain points with this latest outing, they merely maintain their consistent standard of irreverence by providing their usual well-timed humour.

  • CharlesAsh

    I think the space which Nandos occupies as a brand allows it certain platitudes and liberties which many brands do not enjoy…this is what makes Nandos so special. I doubt anybody would begrudge Nandos for seizing the opportunity to punt chicken in spite of the serious nature of the matter at hand. The brand is irreverent and has a long history of not playing by the rules…they neither lose nor gain points with this latest outing, they merely maintain their consistent standard of irreverence by providing their usual well-timed humour.

  • http://twitter.com/MvelaseP Mvelase

    Hey Gerald, thanks for the comment. 

    While we may say, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” I can promise you that’s not how brands think. Essentially there are two ways you are incorrect in your opinion.

    Sure brands want to be featured on sites such as Memeburn, but they want to be featured in a positive light.

    Also, remember the Jonothan Houston piece I linked to? As he points out, and I agree with, viral marketing – particularly the style of viral marketing that Nando’s employs – is about increasing positive brand mentions and sentiment.

    They may be on Memeburn, but they’re not on Memeburn in the way they’d like.

  • Cynically Jaded

    I think Memeburm is making something out of nothing here. I don’t see the message as being particularly insensitive at all. It’s a standard irreverant and tongue-in-cheek ad from Nando’s that is no less sensitive than any of their other topical ad campaigns that they’ve run in the past. The only criticism I have for this ad is that it’s not particularly funny. Their other ads have much shareper wit than this. So if anything, Nando’s should be criticised for their drop in standards with this ad.

  • http://twitter.com/MvelaseP Mvelase

    Thanks for the comment.

    As I see it, however, that it’s not funny is the crux of the issue. Were the joke funny, the ad would’ve been fine. I once heard a comedian say something along the lines of “anything – no matter how serious – can be a joke… Just as long as it’s funny”. The fact that this ad entirely failed to be humourous renders it “crass, cheap, & opportunisitic” Just to be clear, this (and the article as a whole) is only my personal opinion, not a Memeburn editorial position. 

  • Pingback: Even dictators need company says Nando’s new campaign | memeburn

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