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Nando’s plays chicken with Schapelle and wins

Someone thought it was a peri peri good idea to cash in on Corby.

Fast-food chain Nando’s has done it again. While the release of Schapelle Corby on parole was hitting all the Australian news headlines yesterday, Nando’s used a technique known as “topical advertising” to get attention, controversy, and discussion of the ad and brand.

In the ad, that was posted as a message on Nando’s Facebook and Twitter, it said:

Schapelle, now that you’re out, try our delicious Peri-Peri Chicken … The only bars you’ll see are on our grill.

While some media have described it as being in “poor taste” (not so good for a food product), a campaign “backfire” and a “social media fail”, people still talked and joked about it – which, from an advertising point of view, is still a result.

Nando’s ad strategy


This is not the first time Nando’s has been controversial in its advertising messages. Over the years the company has developed a reputation for controversial advertising to support its international growth. This has included advertisements with pole-dancing mums, big-breasted bimbos, and numerous print ads with double entendres about chickens, breasts and celebrities etc.

In the competitive fast-food market, Nando’s advertising has been effective in generating heated discussion. This strategy has resulted in a number of their print, radio and television advertisements creating a stir which has led to much publicity, both positive and negative.

Topical advertising

Topical advertising describes the situation whereby advertisers take advantage of a current event or issue to get the attention of potential customers, often using humour – or attempts at humour – as a hook. So while trying to be current and relevant, it can also be quite clever and generate extra publicity.

Nando’s regularly run topical advertisements that mention the economy, competitors, politicians, and even refugees. On June 24 2010, Julia Gillard became Australia’s first female prime minister. While there were thousands of words written about the historic event, in a quickly arranged show by the advertising industry thousands of dollars of politics-related advertising featured in newspapers the following day, including, from Nando’s: “Yes Julia … Chicks Rule”.

Some other examples of the ads run in this vein include:

  • “Taking a break?” with a picture of Kevin Rudd (JetStar)

  • “The Leader in Cleaning Up Party Spills” (Viva Paper Towels)

  • “Kevin, Here’s a Cabinet That Won’t Let You Down” (Ikea)

  • “Support For our New Prime Minister” (Nurofen)

Another occasion that resulted in a number of topical ads being run in newspapers occurred nine months earlier, on September 23 2009. Sydney had thousands of tonnes of dust dumped on it, in a spectacular show of nature. This “once-in-a-lifetime” shrouding of red dust in Sydney was another big event that got the advertising industry moving. The next day’s ads included:

  • “How do you get red dust out of white pants? Time to call your Mum?” (Telstra)

  • “Now that the dust has settled, enjoy a streak free shine” (Windex)

  • “A little dirt isn’t the end of the world” (OMO)

  • “Great for stains. And dust storms” (Napisan)

  • “We see the world in orange. We wanted you to see it that way too. – We’re sorry about the dust” (Bankwest)

There were also ads for Subaru, Viva Glass, Mirror Wipes and Visa that related to the dust storm. Even Tourism NT claimed that it was part of the NT “get ceNTered” campaign “Bringing the red centre to Sydney”. So while many turned up to work late or even took the day off work, creatives at advertising agencies were working over time.

International news has also been a cause of topical advertisements. On the last day of the George Bush administration hair removal company Veet ran an advertisement with the headline “Goodbye Bush”.

So we shouldn’t be so shocked when an ad appears on the same day as Schapelle Corby’s release. And while it is being digitally forwarded or talked about, it should not be seen as a “fail”.

Wherever there is news there are also quick-thinking creative minds – and an advertising buck to be made.

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