Chicken Republic (CR), a Nigerian fast-food chain found itself in some hot water this past weekend. The cause? An ill-advised illustration poking fun at an erstwhile political bigwig’s incarceration.
The brouhaha centred on what readers perceived as a political bias (or is it naivetè) on CR’s part. The Nigerian electorate (still so called because it appears we’re in perma-election mode) is sharply divided and quick to bristle over slights, real or imagined. Before we examine the validity of the charge, let take care of a few things first.
As a brand, there are three key issues you should generally steer clear of; Religion, Politics, Race (or in Nigeria’s case, ethnicity) unless you can take a near universally held position. It is for a brand’s own good that it avoids these three topics, why? They are the most polarising; your potential consumer base will most likely than not have a fixed position and depending on the angle your ad takes, your brand runs the risk of upsetting potential consumers unnecessarily.
Now, let’s examine the illustration in question.
Nigerian brands have never been able to “satirise” the government du jour (and calling what CR does satire, is a stretch), though free speech exists in theory, the repercussions of upsetting the government is historically real and as such they have advisably refrained from doing so. What rankles with the above advert is aside from how poorly executed it is, it is downright impolitic. The subject of the joke is currently a defendant in a sub judice matter bordering on his alleged consumption of his witness statement, a criminal offence. A charge to which he has pleaded ‘not guilty’. Were Nigeria the kind of nation where allegedly corrupt individuals were roundly condemned by the public, this advert might have barely moved the needle, but where a sizeable number of the demographic the advert is aimed at believes that corruption allegations and charges are politically and or ethnically motivated, CR unnecessarily irritated potential paying diners.
The brand would do really well to leave political advertising to political parties or those who understand subtlety in future. Its fawning depiction of the president doesn’t help the allegations that the brand suffers a political bias. See the below.
On the illustration on the left, you see the president depicted as a ‘doer’ here, the hash tags put a positive spin on what the president (and his party) had been accused of;
#UsainBuhari #PickingUpSpeed #BoltOfChange #HopeFortheFuture #BetterThingsToCome #ChickenRepublic – The precise opposite of what a significant number of people believe and are saying Buhari is. The image on the right shows Tunde Fashola, the much lauded minister, in a ‘3-in-1’ depiction, – BRF himself is not free from allegations of corruption but CR, in true Nigerian brand obsequious fashion, dare not refer to those.
It’s rather jarring, this one sided attempt at being ‘provocative’, it’s either you are or aren’t and since Chicken Republic cannot really do it as it needs to be done, fairly, they are advised to stay away from divisive politics all together.
It is important to note one thing, CR prides itself on riffing on topical issues, feeding on the Nigerian social media as guidance. On the upside, the brand has done some dope work in the past, the below for example. The image on the left leveraged on the #BeingFemaleInNigeria hashtag and it managed to capture the essence of the matter at hand without being offensive. On the right, is an illustration based on Caitlyn Jenner’s well publicised transition from male to female, without hammering the point, the reader gets it, it’s cheeky but for its intended audience, it works well. Clever stuff.
CR has managed to carve an enviable niche for itself, it has a prompt media team that is up to date on current affairs, it’s admirable but it’d do well to stick to making us laugh and poking fun at that which most of us can get behind.
If the team does particularly enjoy making political commentary, then it must embrace plausible deniability – work with ambiguity, let your contributions be believably this or that, a nod and a wink to your readers, we’ll get it, trust me.