Orchids and Onions – Nando’s, Chicken Licken have lots to crow about

In this world of fake news, purveyors of information need to be extra careful. So Onions to Vend and Red Ribbon for a misleading Black Friday ad.

So, who fired the first shot in our local “chicken wars”? And was it pre-emptive?

That we’ll probably never know but the timing of the release – and attendant publicity – of two uniquely South African, push-the-boundaries adverts for fast food chicken brands, makes one wonder. Did one try to steal the thunder of the other?

In the end, it’s the consumer who benefits from the creative jousting between the long-term champion of cheeky, current ads, Nando’s, and the challenger, Chicken Licken.

The Nando’s one, not surprisingly, got everyone talking because it hits quite close to the (thigh?) bone of South African race and ethnic sensitivities and how we often talk past each other because of stereotypes.

So Nando’s shoots those down. Why do “you people” assume the black man running is a criminal; the black woman in the shop works there; why do “you people” have funny accents, why “do you people” make so much noise?

It has a go at just about all the stereotypes and aims to make people have a twinge of guilt and acknowledge that they, at some point, jumped to a conclusion.

The bottom line, in the Nando’s ad, is that what “you people” – and an assortment of all – love flame-grilled chicken.

Chicken Licken’s fantasy story aims to turn history on its head by showing, in the legend of “Big John” – also a meal special at the chain – it was in fact Africa which “discovered” Europe.

It’s quite interesting to see Big John arriving in Holland and causing the good Dutch burghers to wonder what on earth he is. It’s worth watching a few times to pick up the gags you might have missed. My favourite: this happened many years ago, when leather was still fashionable…

What I like about both ads is that they are uniquely South African: despite all the bitching we do about each other, we understand that and I think we can still laugh at ourselves. Also, I don’t think you could do work like this in any other, sanitised, politically correct market.

And, which is the best? You decide – I can’t.

Suffice to say: Orchid for Nando’s and Orchid for Chicken Licken. Thanks for reminding us about what good local ads are.

In a country where mathematical literacy is appallingly bad, I think there is a particular onus on those releasing information to the public for marketing purposes to be especially accurate and even circumspect.

It is so easy to take advantage of gullible media people, and consumers, who might miss your sleight of hand.

The sex and dating website Ashley Madison – now since, thankfully, deceased – used to do the misleading or fake news press release with predictable regularity.

Putting together bogus or misleading news still happens. And the fact that a lot of it gets published, uncritically, says a lot about our thoroughness, as the media, in fact-checking.

A company called Vend and its PR company, Red Ribbon Communications, sent out a release this week which said: “Black Friday falls flat for South African retailers with 10% drop in spending”, adding “discounting levels continue to grow year-on-year, while Pretoria is the only city to see yearly sales increase”.

The intro was: “Data from leading retail management platform Vend shows that in-store retail spending over the Black Friday shopping period this year dropped by 10% compared to 2017. Sales volumes also decreased by 2%.”

However, only further down in the release was it explained that Vend only caters for “hundreds of small-to-medium and independent retail stores across Africa” (whatever that means). Nowhere in the release was it explicitly stated that Vend’s data comes only from that vague data set.

Even after I raised the issue with Red Ribbon and Vend, they stuck to their guns that the initial release was not misleading.

In this world of fake news, purveyors of information need to be extra careful. So Onions to Vend and Red Ribbon for not being so.

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