Ad of the Week: The kung fu fabulosity returns
by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki) The fast-food quest for enlightenment continues as Chicken Licken extends its “Soul Fire/Soul Food” campaign with a laugh-out-loud ‘kung fooey’ satire. This new commercial pokes fun at martial arts movies, its stock characters and themes, in a way that’s both entertaining and endearing.
The search for inner peace? Isn’t that what everyone is looking for? The good news is that Chicken Licken claims to have found the answer to this perennial dilemma in a new advert that’s worth an entertainment black belt, at the very least.
The story of Rick
Last year Chicken Licken made us chuckle with the story of Rick, an ordinary office worker who dropped everything (including his wife) to travel to Tibet seeking soul food. It was something like the fast-food version of Eat, Pray, Love — except that, unlike Elizabeth Gilbert, Rick never returned to Lonehill South Africa. Commercial lore has it that, sadly, he’s forever lost in the Himalayas.
Alas, if only Rick known about Chicken Licken’s extra special Rock My Soul 3, he would still be with us. For those of you who aren’t walking the way of the fast-food fowl, the Rock My Soul 3 is a meal from the chicken brand that contains three pieces of deep fried-bird, some chips and Chicken Licken’s secret “Soul Fire” sauce.
This same meal was around last year and is still available from the famous chicken outlet (at the same price). But this year’s Soul Food story switches from meditating monks to the Kung Fu hustle, and ‘the way of the empty hand’.
“Go. Find inner peace.”
As the ad starts, the scene opens with a group of martial artists in matching outfits. At the centre of the frame is the man who will become the centre of the story (presumably a South African). His first moves match what the others are doing, but oops, suddenly he’s facing in the wrong direction.
“Your soul is restless, Grasshopper,” the master says, sending him flying across the floor. The camera does a shaky snap-zoom (so typical of the genre) into the master’s face, matched by the sound of an eagle shrieking. “Go. Find inner peace,” commands the master, stroking his long, white beard.
The reference to “Grasshopper” dates back to the 70s’ TV series “Kung Fu”, starring David Carradine As a Shaolin priest called Kwai Chang Caine. “As a young student at the Shaolin temple, Caine, in his youthful ignorance, takes pity on a blind Shaolin master, believing the master’s blindness to be a terrible affliction,” Urban Dictionary tells us. “The master quickly corrects Caine, illustrating that despite his blindness, his awareness of the world is much higher than Caine’s — for example, the master takes notice of the grasshopper at Caine’s feet whereas Caine does not. From that moment on, the blind master befriends Caine and becomes a mentor to him. He gives Caine the nickname of ‘Grasshopper’ in an affectionate reference to this first encounter.”
All the dialogue in the ad is lip-synched (badly, of course) and the music moves from cheesy oriental to cheesy 70s’ pop-rock. Similarly, all the kicks and punches pay homage to the Kung Fu film legends, with the standard ‘air whip’ sound followed by a high-pitched hit. The soundtrack of the commercial is a tribute to the clichés of the genre.
In his quest for inner peace, the Kung Fu adept embarks on a journey into nature, doing one-finger push ups, walking on water and meditating on one leg. This is portrayed in a split-screen montage, and at one point the master appears in one screen and slaps him from outside of the frame, saying, “Your soul lacks fire!”
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So our hero redoubles his efforts, training on the edge of a volcano and taking lessons from a hooded cobra. Back at the temple, the master dismisses his efforts in a quick-cut sequence, in which he seems to disappear and then reappear behind our hero, sending him cartwheeling with a single blow.
“You’ll never find inner peace,” declares the white-bearded teacher.
“But, master…” says the stricken novice.
With his master’s “Never!” echoing in his ears, the disconsolate hero wanders the streets in the rain, until he comes across a Chicken Licken. There in the window is the master, enjoying a Rock My Soul 3 meal. The penny drops (we literally hear it in the soundtrack) and the scene cuts back to the temple, where the master sarcastically asks, “So, you have found inner peace?”
“Three pieces, master,” says our hero, opening the Chicken Licken box to reveal three pieces of crispy fried chicken. The master tries to grab the box, but our hero is too quick, blocking and parrying his master’s attempts. The box is kicked into the air, and the master does a somersaulting leap to catch it, landing with a chuckle. But when he opens the box, it is empty. Our hero licks his finger and smiles knowingly.
(By the way, there is now also a version of the ad with seven pieces, called the Rock My Soul 7 — which may be a new offering from Chicken Licken.)
As someone who grew up loving the gamut of martial arts movies, from Bruce Lee to Jean-Claude van Damme to Jackie Chan (and don’t forget Chuck Norris), and even the spoofs such as Kung Fu Hustle, this ad has all the elements that — for me — resonate with great nostalgia. At the same time, it builds upon the trademark humour that Chicken Licken uses to market its brand, and makes a direct call to action with this particular product.
A low and respectful bow to the creatives at Net#work BBDO and Plank Films for tickling our chicken-funny-bones once again, and to Chicken Licken for being a “Soul Fire” brand.
Agency: Net#work BBDO
Chief creative officer: Mike Schalit
Executive creative director: Brad Reilly
Copywriter: Safaraaz Sindhi
Art director: Heidi Kasselman
Agency producer: Caroline Switala
Account director: Amber Mackeurtan
Strategist: Tebogo Koena
Production company: Plank Films
Director: Peter Pohorsky
DOP: Devin Toselli
Producer: Ben Kaufman
Editor: Evy Katz
Composer: Markus Wormstorm
Sound engineer: Louis Enslin
Ad of the Week, published on MarkLives every Wednesday, is penned by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki), the CEO of Ornico, a Brand Intelligence® firm that focuses on media, reputation and brand research. If you are involved in making advertising that is smart, funny and/or engaging, please let Oresti know about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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