This morning I came across some of the headlines from around the world and saw that Nando’s, a South African fast food restaurant chain, was in the spotlight again – this time for their new “Diversity” TV ad that has been pulled by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). This isn’t the first time their ads have stirred controversy. Just a few months ago, Nando’s pulled its popular “Last Dictator Standing” ad from TV in Zimbabwe where it jokingly featured the country’s own Robert Mugabe as one the foreign despots looking melancholic, seemingly realizing the time of his rule was coming to an end as he looked back on the memories of his fellow dictators who had all fallen out of power. The ad was withdrawn by Nando’s own management based on their concerns that it was creating an unsafe atmosphere for employees and patrons at their restaurants within Zimbabwe under the current political climate.
Continuing their efforts at promoting social change, Nando’s released its “Diversity” spot featuring the opening line: “You know what’s wrong with South Africa? All you foreigners.” Several ethnic groups are then named including Kenyans, Cameroonians, Zimbabweans, Botswanans, Europeans, Indians and Nigerians, showing them quickly disappearing into a puff of smoke. The ad then goes on to include Afrikaners and Zulus to point out that they too, no matter how long they have been present in the country, were once foreigners themselves. The final segment shows a Khoisan man, an aboriginal native of South Africa, who then proclaims: “I’m not going anywhere. You *$&!@#* found us here.”
Officially, the SABC cited that the commercial had the potential to incite attacks on various foreign groups or ethnicities if it were to be interpreted in such a way. After viewing the commercial, several members of the Culture Coach team found that the ad was unsuccessful in positively promoting diversity and inclusion and did not get across the desired message that everyone in South Africa naturally loves diversity because almost all of the country is a descendent of foreigners. While many will find the advert humorous and edgy, some may misinterpret it as being offensive or promoting xenophobia. I would not go so far as to say that it promotes xenophobia; clearly the ad is meant to be ironic. However, by the end of the ad, the viewer is left with an unresolved and negative feeling after having watched every race being “zapped” out, being cursed at by a Khoisan man with an attitude, and at the end, all of the hostility is justified with only a plate of chicken and fries. Perhaps it would have been more effective marketing if after they have “zapped” out all the foreigners, the ad ended with all the various nationalities and ethnic groups eating and enjoying the chicken together as a way to both tie in the catch phrase “Real South Africans love diversity” with the new diversity of menu choices. (Nando’s is itself of Mozambican-Portuguese origin) Then, perhaps the viewer would be left with a positive image of the people of South Africa being tolerant and diverse, instead of the image of people going up in smoke.
Such a serious and sensitive issue in a country that ended its own apartheid segregation less than 20 years ago should not be taken lightly as this ad would have many believe. While the attempt at bridging the gap between nationalities is to be commended, the style of the ad leaves the viewer with the opposite desired reaction and could therefore benefit from just an additional moment that would better tie in a scene of harmony between the various ethnic and national groups to prove its point.