Nando’s pokes fun at anti-vaxxers in new app ads

Flame-grilled chicken chain Nando’s PERi-PERi is launching a new app, and using the occasion to poke fun at conspiratorial COVID-19 anti-vaxxers, an expression of what it calls the company’s exhaustion with customers who refuse to get vaccinated.

In a series of parody videos, online ads, posters and social media, the “Don’t be an Anti-Apper” ads poke fun at science disbelievers, fake-news proponents and other conspiracy theorists. It says the campaign has two goals: to encourage people to get vaccinated and end the COVID pandemic, and to drive traffic to the new Nando’s app.

In the videos, actors playing “real people” make conspiratorial comments about the “dangerous new app,” with such reactions as: “No one has studied the side effects of ordering directly from your phone,” “They say trust the science, but there is no science in the app,” “Could apps on a phone make a guy impotent?,” “I don’t want the Nando’s app on my phone and I sure as hell don’t want my phone implanted with 5G,” and, “I ordered Nando’s directly from my phone once, but I realized no one has studied the side effects.”

Nando’s says it feels the direct effect every day at its stores in the D.C. area and Chicago area, the only U.S. markets where it has a presence, with staff getting sick and restaurants closing temporarily because of staff shortages and illness.

“COVID is tough on everyone, of course, but the hospitality industry business has been particularly hard hit. Nando’s wants to push back,” Nando’s said in a statement.

Vaccination rates are high in the D.C. area, but the chain still runs the risk of alienating customers, or potential customers by mocking the anti-vaccination sentiment.

“We certainly hope not. That is not our intention. We think that through some good humor and some tongue-in-cheek advertising, we can encourage a conversation around the benefits of vaccination,” said Sepanta Bagherpour, Nando’s chief brand officer.

Nando’s often uses satire in advertising to take on social issues.

In 2020, to promote voter registration for the upcoming national elections, it had a campaign called “The Undemocratic Meal,” adding menu choices with horrible combinations, like mayonnaise on chocolate cake, to make the point that choice matters. It also added free voter registration cards to its menus.

In 2017, for Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, Nando’s “Everyone is Welcome” campaign draped restaurants with signs saying “Muslims, Immigrants, Gay People all welcome.” It also included posters in the former Express commuter newspaper.

Nando’s was founded in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1987.

“We are a brand that started at the end of the Apartheid era in South Africa. We owe it to South Africa and we owe it to ourselves to continue to continue to have an opinion and to lean into social issues,” Bagherpour said.

Nando’s has restaurants in 23 countries and its first U.S. location opened in D.C. in 2008. It now has 43 restaurants in the D.C. and Chicago areas.

Here is one of Nando’s social media videos:

Video courtesy of Nando’s PERi-PERi.

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Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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