by MarkLives (@marklives) This week we feature insight into the brief, creative idea, production challenges and results of the Afro-tising campaign for Nando’s from M&C Saatchi Abel.

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Client: Nando’s
Ad agency: M&C Saatchi Abel
Title: Afro-tising/More South African Flavour

Information supplied by M&C Saatchi Abel.


There’s this new look to South African ads and we see more of it every day:

  • It’s Ponte Tower piled high with garbage.
  • It’s oiled up black men running through derelict streets in slow motion.
  • It’s dancers covered in neon face-paint, or influencers in gritty street fashion staring defiantly at camera, yelling about hashtags or waving colourful smoke bombs.

It’s youth culture, amiright?

Well, no.

It’s an African artistic aesthetic that’s been borrowed, copied and stolen by marketers to try and sell things to young people. Never mind that the aesthetic is borrowed from real African creatives who are building to the culture, but the strategy is so transparent. It’s lazy, cynical and a little insulting to the audience, and it’s made what once was an edgy, interesting aesthetic feel tired and formulaic.

There’s so much more to South Africa than this one narrow vignette, and we wanted to remind advertisers of that with characteristic Nando’s fire and humour.

Creative summary

When writing the script and researching the ad, we found over 40 examples of what we termed “Afro-tising ads/content” produced in just the last three years.

Our ad references all the well-trodden “Afro-tising” tropes: The neon, the hashtags, the style of voiceover, the burning gritty streets, the poverty porn, the thrones, and the fetishised African tribalism.

We open with a tip of the cap to Absa’s “Africanacity” campaign as the best recent example of this type of a brand latching on to “Afro-tising” to try and connect with the youth.

We reference how fashionable it has become to put a person with albinism in an ad — how this often feels more like fetishising than accepting and celebrating.

In the ad we see Khuli Chana, who partnered with Absolut vodka to make a ground-breaking, fiercely African music video, telling a copycat on a throne of garbage to get out of the way. This is a nod to the fact that Khuli, whose work helped establish this fierce gritty new African aesthetic, partnered with us because he’s also tired of seeing it copied everywhere by everyone.

Finally, our voiceover nails home the point with the line, “It’s all looking the same”.


Hamilton Dlamini, our lead actor, was in a theatre play in London and he is an actor in the local soapy, “Generations”. Both of these productions clashed with our prep and initial shoot days, so we had scheduling challenges around his availability. The team wasn’t not prepared to compromise his role in the Nando’s ad, as he’s the deep voiceover from the Castle Milk Stout ad and played into the trope of the deep African voice. Our shoot date ended up shifting a few days later to accommodate his availability, which only left a week for full post-production.

The hyena was a massive challenge. You need special permits to travel wild animals and it would have taken two months for us to secure a permit. We used a dog styled as a hyena on our shoot date; however, Tebza, our director, wasn’t satisfied with this and determined to film a real hyena. He ended up filming one at a rehabilitation farm two days later, which was composited into the ad in post-production.

It’s near impossible to get road closures in JHB CBD on any given weekday, due to traffic congestion, yet we managed to negotiate with city officials to close off a section of Fox Street for a full day and set dress and shoot.

The biggest challenge was timing — we literally executed the job in four weeks, from production go ahead.


On Twitter, the campaign received 260 586 paid and 1 182 861 organic impressions in its first week. The view through rate on organic impressions came in at 14.86%. On Facebook, it received 643 507 paid and 445 010 organic views in its first week.

So far, the reaction to the ad has been overwhelmingly positive from consumers and industry leaders alike and, while some have suggested this is an ad made more for the advertising industry than consumers, consumers have been very vocal online in picking up the many in-joke references and expressing relief that Nando’s called out the tropes they were sick of. Maybe, as an industry, we should start giving our audience more credit.



Chief marketing officer, Africa, Middle East, South Asia: Doug Place
GM brand & strategy IMEA: Su-Lise Tessendorf
Advertising & media manager southern Africa: Jake Johnstone


M&C Saatchi Abel
Founding partner & executive creative director: Gordon Ray
Chief creative officer, M&C Saatchi Abel Group: Neo Mashigo
Head of strategy: Makosha Maja Rasethaba
Creative group head & copywriter: Joshua de Kock
Art director: Wade Barnes
Head of account management/business unit director: Kim Stewart
Head of broadcast production: Bronwyn Henry

Production company

Star Films
Director: Teboho Malope
Executive producer: Adam Thal
Line producer: Ashley Kadish
Set designer: Bobby Cardoso
DoP: Adam Bentel
Key wardrobe stylist: Bee Diamondhead
Key makeup: Adie Cohen
Food stylist: Nicky Hattingh


The Upstairs Ludus
Offline editor: Andrew Trail
Colourist: Michelle Wilson
Online editor: Michael Naidoo


Tiger Fight Music
Executive producer: Garth Barnes


Sterling Sound
Engineer: Sean Williams

See also


MarkLives logo#Campaigns is the new weekly MarkLives column featuring insight into the brief, creative idea, production challenges and results of South African communication campaigns, both ongoing and recent. Have a campaign worthy of being featured in #Campaigns? Submit a short motivation to 2mark and we may well be in touch. Please include links to campaign material, when it ran/is running and why you believe it should be featured.

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