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How Chicken Licken Took a Trip into the Marvel Universe


The Joe Public team tell LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about creating the chicken restaurant’s comedic homage to the latest Black Panther movie ‘Wakanda Forever’

How Chicken Licken Took a Trip into the Marvel Universe

South Africa’s Chicken Licken restaurant chain is back with its signature tongue ‘n’ cheek approach to ads. In its latest campaign, the chicken spot built on its partnership with Joe Public to create a parody of the latest Black Panther: Wakanda Forever release. Launching on the same day as the movie, Big John returns to cure 'Ya’Hunga Forever', one burger at a time.

This homage to the movie came after the first instalment of Black Panther resonated with South Africans, and the massive production for this campaign took only 10 weeks from ideation to launch. With the nation of Wakanda speaking the South African language of Xhosa, as well as the movie presenting the first Black comic superhero, it was the perfect opportunity to infuse Chicken Licken’s signature comedy into a culturally relevant spot. With costumes, scenes and moments which are inspired by the Marvel franchise, it’s clear that this creative take on it doesn’t copy, but nods in appreciation to the comic book series. 

The partnership between Joe Public and Chicken Licken has created some iconic ad moments, from controversial spots such as ‘The Legend of Big John’ or the more recent ‘Love Me Tender’ campaign, showing how resonant communication is at the heart of the collaboration. As Joe Public explains, the media cost for the Chicken Licken brand “is 80% of the total cost of their marketing budget,” so getting this communication right has always been a matter of importance. Thankfully, every campaign seems to hit the comedic nail on the head, with a signature Chicken Licken style. 

Speaking to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about the campaign is the Joe Public team consisting of the group CEO Pepe Marais, CCO Xolisa Dyeshana, ECD Martin Schlumpf, art director Raphael Kuppasamy, copywriter Bernice Puleng, business director Amber Mackeurtan, account manager Sonwabile Mkize and producer Wendy Botha.

LBB> When did the idea for this campaign begin? Was there a moment when watching the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever trailer that sparked an idea or was it something else?

Joe Public> As an agency, we pride ourselves on creating locally relevant work, especially for Chicken Licken, one of South Africa’s most iconic local brands. For this reason, we are constantly watching local trends and conversations. The first Black Panther movie was a massive hit in South Africa and the official language of Wakanda is Xhosa, a South African language, hence all the hype around the launch of the second movie created this window of opportunity. So, to your question, it was more through watching local conversations than watching the trailer, that this idea was conceived by our creative team.

LBB> Chicken Licken campaigns always seem to hit the creative and comedic nail on the head. Can you tell us how the client reacted to this idea in particular?

Joe Public> Our client is one of the most successful local entrepreneurial stories, and they understand that the cost of media is 80% of the total cost of their marketing budget. For this reason, their mandate to us as their agency is to fill their media spaces with the most resonant communication for our market. On presenting them with this idea, I think that they could see that it was a natural opportunity to capitalise on a very topical conversation within our marketplace. In essence, they loved it, and from there, it was huge pressure on our production pipeline to produce this piece in time for the launch of Black Panther.

LBB> There’s so much detail in the costumes, can you talk us through the process of creating them?

Joe Public> From the onset of the project, we realised that we could not simply copy Marvel’s movie, but rather had to create our own futuristic country alongside theirs. For this reason, an immense amount of design and planning went into every aspect of the detail, to ensure that none of the elements of our film were copies, but rather played into the genre. The costumes are beautiful, and all credit to Dihantus Engelbrecht and his team of designers that created them. Every single detail was first designed on paper – from the clothing all the way down to the headbands that the warriors wore. After that, material samples were chosen according to what would work and look best on camera. Once all the various materials were approved, all the costumes were fitted to and produced for the specific cast members, to give them that tight superhero fit, adjusting smaller details right until our assistant director shouted: “Action!”

LBB> The line ‘Ya’Hunga Forever’ is a great piece of copywriting. How long did it take to land on it and what was the team’s reaction to it?

Joe Public> The essence of the line was presented by the team in the first review, which was probably why we approved the idea in the first place. We did however go through a couple of iterations before deciding on ‘Big John beats Ya’Hunga forever’. Again, we looked to Black Panther for inspiration but still made sure we remained original. We love the line because it beautifully marries the product intrinsic, that the Big John Burger is a big burger for a big hunger, with that of the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever parody.

LBB> In the script for the spot, how did you create the balance between satire and a sense of realism to the actual movie? Did you give the actors any prompts on delivering the lines?

Joe Public> From the get-go we wanted to create something that would look like a Hollywood blockbuster but still maintain an authentic African story. The intention was always to imagine what it would be like if strangers from a perfect futuristic world came to South Africa. That’s where the humour lies, where these two worlds collide, creating scenes that consumers can relate to. Scenes that we’re faced with in everyday life in our country, but then offsetting them with the fantastical movie world that has such a huge cultural relevance today. 

The performances were great, not only thanks to our cast, but also to our director, Greg Gray, who is one of our country’s best performance and storytelling directors. The idea was to make the characters ‘African’, but with a twist. We all know and love it when Hollywood produces movies that shine a light on Africa and Africans, but we also know that they don’t always get it right when it comes to certain nuances like accents and pronunciation for example. That’s why the Xhosa gag was so important to the script, where both characters are speaking the language, but the native Xhosa speaker doesn’t understand his counterpart, because of his Americanised accent.

LBB> When it comes to timescale, how long did it take to create this spot, with all of the planning, filmmaking and CGI processes?

Joe Public> It had to be produced at the speed of light because of the Black Panther launch date, which obviously would not wait for our production. It may just be a world record given that it took just under 10 weeks to produce, from client presentation to launch. This is crazy considering the scale of the ad with all the CGI, the music score and the attention to detail. Fortunately, we are blessed with world-standard production partners like Romance Films, and our animation partner, BlackGinger.

LBB? And what about the post production and editing? What was the most challenging part to craft and get right?

Joe Public> Ricky Boyd from Deliverance Post did an amazing job in landing the comedic timing and storytelling. The CGI was hands down the most challenging because it’s what would give us the scale that was needed to make the parody legit. It had to be perfect from beginning to end, because we wanted people to think that they may just be watching the start of the real Black Panther film when our ad flighted in cinemas just before the actual movie. At one stage, BlackGinger who crafted and designed the backgrounds, set extensions, 3D environments, props and futuristic UIs had about 30 animators working on the film at the same time.

LBB> The moment where ‘Big John’ is carried in is hilarious. What was it like to film this moment on set? There must have been some laughs.

Joe Public>  We shot two versions of the ending, one where he walks around staring wide-eyed in awe, and one where he is carried in – which was part of our director’s original treatment. On that day, the second option was so hilarious. It meant doing a few extra takes because the supporting cast couldn’t stop laughing out loud. On the first take, we didn’t tell them that ‘Big John’ was going to be carried in, so it took them a little while to settle after they saw it for the first time. I think seeing that reaction on set made it clear to us which one of the two options would work best leading up to the climactic point of the film.

LBB> This campaign launched on the same day as Wakanda Forever was released in cinemas. What impact has this had on the reaction to the spot?

Joe Public> Black Panther was the first Black comic book superhero, because of this and the context of our country, the movie has been highly acclaimed and celebrated by our nation. The sequel was therefore the most highly anticipated movie of the year. This cultural relevance and context had a huge impact on the reaction to the spot which received over two million views on social media within the first five days of flighting. On the day of launch, it actually out-trended the movie at one point, with even Marvel positively commenting on our Facebook feed.

LBB> Can you talk us through some of the stills and OOH imagery that you created? What were you keen to include?

Joe Public> The art direction, costume design and CGI in the film are spectacular and we really wanted to utilise these assets as much as possible. It was obvious that we needed movie-type posters for out of home and our digital extension. We flighted these on billboards and as movie posters alongside the Black Panther posters in the cinemas our ad flighted in.

LBB> What’s next for Chicken Licken campaigns? Is there anything weird and/or wonderful in the works?

Joe Public> We are currently in the ideation phase of our next Chicken Licken campaign, so stay tuned for more.


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Joe Public, Mon, 21 Nov 2022 17:56:00 GMT