Stop. Watch. Listen

Life in SA according to Nandos: 'Pluck' doccie is a hilarious eye-opener

This documentary uses Nando's marketing campaigns to tell an alternative sociopolitical history of South Africa

10 June 2018 - 00:00 By andrea nagel
Actors pretending to be African leaders shoot at each other with water guns in an iconic Nandos advert.
Actors pretending to be African leaders shoot at each other with water guns in an iconic Nandos advert.
Image: Supplied


WHO: Lloyd Ross and Joëlle Chesselet.

WHAT: A documentary using Nando's marketing campaigns to tell an alternative sociopolitical history of SA.

WHY CARE: It's super funny - and enlightening, too.

WHEN AND WHERE: From June 15 at The Bioscope in downtown Joburg.


Pluck is a film not just about the chicken. It's also a film that isn't chicken at all. Not chicken, that is, to flame grill all our sacred cows.

Ostensibly about the advertising campaigns that have given chicken outlet Nando's its reputation for irreverent social and political commentary, it is actually a film that champions the ability of South Africans to laugh at ourselves through the absurdity of our collective history and our particular foibles.

The world's PC watchdogs are barking louder than ever at the moment, which makes it the perfect time to look back at some of the most outrageous campaigns dreamed up by the advertising teams working for Nando's, and to marvel at what they got away with:

  • A naked woman, rear in the air, abandoned at the bedpost because, for her partner, "the craving [had] spoken";
  • A Robert Mugabe lookalike eating dinner on his own, reminiscing of frolicking with his mates Idi Amin, Muammar Gaddafi, Mao Zedong and of course PW Botha; or
  • A guide dog, intentionally walking his charge into a lamp post to get at her steaming bag of chicken.

Most South Africans remember these adverts with affection - not that Nando's didn't have considerable fires to put out when they were grilled by the representatives of the offended groups with whom they fell foul. All of which makes us appreciate the blurb of the documentary all the more: Gender? Politics? Race? Xenophobia? Religion? To Nando's - it's all free range.

WATCH | The trailer for Pluck

But it's hardly just the adverts that Ross and Chesselet examine. Using interviews with big names in the ad world, like John Hunt of TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris, who says in the film: "We were in the business of making people look at themselves"; and big names in the political sphere like Trevor Manuel, who comments: ''Nando's doesn't allow itself to be hemmed in by the prejudices of others"; and psychologists like Helgo Schomer, who says: "The ads that got banned are the best, because they hit the mark" - the filmmakers follow the trajectory of the country as it was reflected by the creatives behind the Nando's brand using the headlines of the day as their creative fodder.

The film makes it clear that from the start Nando's has been a company that's embraced diversity and gender equality, despite some of their cheap potshots at women. But then, who could blame them with the ole chicks, thighs and breasts analogies at their fingertips?

They also made ample use of the "left wing" versus "right wing" political satire that wasn't a great stretch of the imagination for a chicken chain. But in among the puns and playfulness, real political comment was being consistently made, especially during election times. Mandela, Zille, Terre 'Blanche, Zuma and Malema - none have escaped the satirical lens of Nando's creatives.

"We were very aware that if you were going to play this game, be even-handed," says Hunt early on in the film. "South Africa has so many faultlines. If you can understand that, you're a very South African brand."

Historical footage, the adverts themselves and commentary from a range of interviews tell the story of South Africa as reflected by the brand. Political activist Cheryl Carolus sums it up thus: "Nando's reflects the best of what we are as South Africans."