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Fast food chain gets political with playfighting dictators ad

Col. Moammar Gadhafi, Saddam Hussein and Robert Mugabe are some of the stars in Nando's latest political commercial.

Imagine a fantastical dreamscape where Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe pals around with other playboy dictators, from Col. Moammar Gadhafi to Saddam Hussein. They have water gun fights, make snow angels on sand dunes, and ride tanks with arms outstretched, Titanic-style. It’s a bizarre image, indeed, but it’s exactly what Nando’s, a South African fast food chain, has cooked up in its latest ad, titled “Last dictator standing.”

The commercial, which was released yesterday, shows a despondent Mugabe lookalike setting places in a dining room, though the Zimbabwean president is alone for this lavish occasion. His closest comfort is to wax nostalgic about his boyish antics with a number of other dictators. Turns out Mugabe is dining for one because his friends are all dead.

In the commercial’s closing seconds, a narrator says, “This time of year, no one should eat alone, so get a Nando’s six-pack meal for six.” The six-pack meal is a small party platter of chicken, french fries, rolls and fruit juice.

It might seem strange for a restaurant chain to get wrapped up in current affairs, but Nando’s has a history of selling political commentary alongside grilled chicken. Previous commercials have mocked a politician’s suspension from the African National Congress and the gaudy spending of MPs. Most recently, one of Nando’s ads took aim at legislation known as the “secrecy bill.” These ads are often quick-fire reactions to what’s happening in South African politics.

On Nando’s website, the restaurant chain seems to relish its role as court jesters.  “Needless to say Nando’s ads have been at the centre of some heated topics of discussion,” reads their section on advertising, adding that their daring work has been compensated with industry awards. They describe their work as “cheeky” and “satirical,” and best received with an open mind.

Reaction to their creative output is mixed, however. While some appreciate the humour, others find it opportunistic for a fast food chain to capitalize on current events. And besides, what does government legislation have to do with chicken slathered in piri piri sauce? Regardless, Nando’s is looking to go viral with each ad they release, and with their latest effort, word has gone beyond South Africa.