Chicken Licken embraces AI and robotics in new TVC

Chicken Licken TVC, titled Sbu 2:0

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: In the new Chicken Licken TVC, titled Sbu 2:0, a local science teacher builds a robotic replica of himself to step in for him whenever he needs to feed his Chicken Licken craving.

“We try to showcase real South Africans in the fore of global playing fields in an entertaining and humorous way. So whether it involves sending a South African into space, a South African archaeologist exploring an ancient Egyptian tomb, or like now, a South African science teacher that has built a real-life, functioning, robotic replica of himself, we’re always trying to inspire and create a sense of pride and patriotism through our Chicken Licken commercials,” says Martin Schlumpf, creative director at Joe Public.

However, for this more recent campaign, Schlumpf cites the fact that the world is on the brink of an Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolution as the inspiration behind the commercial. Furthermore, the ad showcases a wishful thought that some of us would love to explore. In this fast-paced world we live in, don’t we all wish that we could sometimes have an exact replica of ourselves to run our errands?

In the spot, we meet Sbu, an unassuming science teacher from a small town, who seems to be up to something in his garage workshop late at night. Sbu has been busy piecing together a robotic invention, using a mismatch of recycled metal and computer parts, resulting in a functioning, somewhat autonomous, robotic version of himself – his very own Sbu 2.0.

The advert plays out a variety of scenarios where the real Sbu has been replaced with his robotic version. From his science class at school, to date nights with his long-term girlfriend Sibongile, Sbu 2.0 even chips in for those unfortunate work functions and becomes the life of the party with his old school robotic moves.

Meanwhile, the real Sbu is enjoying the benefits of his invention, spending his time doing what he loves, that is until his girlfriend recognises him while passing by a Chicken Licken store with Sbu 2.0.

Greg Gray from Romance Films is the director of the advert. He expands: “We took bits of inspiration from moody sci-fi classics such as E.T., Super 8, and the like, giving it a contemporary slant in the same way that Stranger Things has done.”

Casting took place in Johannesburg with Grays Casting and in Cape Town with Chery Battersby. Well-known actor and lead character Mothusi Magano (Sbu), was the first person to audition in JHB, and he managed to find the exact balance between robotic physicality and comedic performance, shares Gray.

The spot was shot on the Arri Alexa Mini. “The Mini is a light and manageable versatile camera that suited our needs and assisted us in being able to set up and move fast between setups,” says Gray.

Gray worked closely with DOP Jamie Ramsay in order to maintain the visual style they had envisaged from the treatment stage. A specific colour palette, lighting and camera style was also developed very earlier on in production, which was integral to maintaining the integrity of the spot.

CGI and special effects were used to enhance the lead character’s robotic moves. “Our lead created a very strong foundation through his physical performance, so the post-production needed to be executed subtly to complement the humour, not take center stage. We felt the more realistic the situation appears, the funnier it would ultimately be in the end.”

Cosmesis provided cosmetic additions which included contacts, a latex mask, wig, and fake teeth to make Sbu 2.0 look more artificial. Additional work was done by Chocolate Tribe and Bladeworks who were responsible for bringing the VFX elements to life in the workshop scene.

“We shot plates of the environment, followed by Sbu 2.0 in the environment with his torso dressed in a ChromaKey suit. This was keyed out in post, and animated robotic innards were added,” shares Gray.

Since the ad first aired on television, the public have taken a liking to Sbu, even posting Sbu-inspired fan art (all on their own accord) to the Chicken Licken social media pages.

The Chicken Licken YouTube page has also garnered close to 90k clicks along with an abundance of positive comments from viewers.

Schlumpf comments: “What makes this commercial so special is that it will resonate with all audiences, most importantly here at home, but also internationally. Yes, we’ve incorporated various local insights because we’re a proudly South African brand, but I think the most important lesson we’ve learnt here is that we don’t need to talk down to our audience and that good advertising will always work. It’s a universal idea with a local flavour that will hopefully appeal to everyone that watches it.”

Gray added: “Looking forward to the next instalment of the Sbu story … perhaps an experiment with cloning?”



  • Camera: Arri Alexa Mini

“The Mini is a light and manageable versatile camera that suited our needs and assisted us in being able to set up and move fast between setups.”


  • Director: Greg Gray
  • DOP: Jamie Ramsay
  • Executive producer: Helena Woodfine
  • Editor: Ricky Boyd, Deliverance
  • Audio: Louis Enslin, Produce Sound



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