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When Dictators Star in Commercials - A New Game of Chicken

Tuesday, 29 Nov 2011 | 3:46 PM ET
Source: You Tube

American advertising is not as edgy as we'd like to think it is.

A talking gecko is not edgy.

It's a little different in South Africa.

A fast food chicken franchise called Nando's has released a commercial starring an actor portraying Zimbabwe bad guy Robert Mugabe.

It's called "Last Dictator Standing", and in it, "Mugabe" misses playing with his old friends—Moammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, former apartheid leader PW Botha, and, in the most outlandish scene, reenacting Titanic's "King of the World" with Idi Amin.

What, no Osama? You mean there was a line Nando's wouldn't cross?

That said, it's a pretty good ad, if you're not totally horrified by it (I admit I wasn't, sorry). But does it make you want to eat chicken?

In the U.S., our chicken commercials push the envelope only to the extent they push the waistband. Americans were shocked, shocked!, by KFC's fat-laden Cheesy Bacon Bowls, which, alas, were only offered for a limited time. Imagine the reaction if, instead, The Colonel was seen reminiscing about old times with Gaddafi.

The dictator commercial may not even be the most offensive ad Nando's has made. According to Fast Company , the chain aired a commercial in 2002 riffing off a hunger strike by detained illegal immigrants where some detainees actually sewed their lips shut. "The subsequent Nando's ad suggested that the strikers chose to unsew their lips after hearing that with every Nando's quarter chicken combo, they’d be getting an extra quarter chicken free," writes Joe Berkowitz. "It was, needless to say, not well-received."

Still, I can't help watching the Mugabe ad. Again. And again.

Looks like Robert Mugabe may be doing the same thing. Zimbabwe officials are not pleased. A group of Mugabe loyalists has a beef with the chicken chain and is threatening a boycott .

For one thing, it's against the law in Zimbabwe to insult Mugabe. Innscor Africa holds the Nando's franchise in that country, and spokesman Musekiwa Kumbula says the commercial is in poor taste. However, "No consultation takes place between different franchises when they are formulating marketing strategies." Franchisees fear retribution more vengeful than OccupyChicken.

MEANTIME, REVENGE IS BEST SERVED...WITH A NEEDLE

On another note, while Nando's employees in Zimbabwe may fear the worst, here's proof there can be more effective ways to exact revenge than just, oh, killing someone.

In a story from Dayton, Ohio, Ryan Fitzjerald found out his girlfriend, Rossie Brovent, was cheating on him. Rather than breaking up, Fitzjerald, a tattoo artist, bided his time, plied her with tequila ... and went to work. See the result, here . ?

Questions? Comments? Funny Stories? Email funnybusiness@cnbc.com

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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