SA’s Viral KFC Neymar Ad: What We Didn’t Know

The recent viral success of KFC Africa’s latest ad ‘Keep Rolling’ has been all up in our timelines over the past week. We got the now ‘internet famous’ Director Karien Cherry from Giant Films and the Ogilvy Cape Town team together to dish on their rollercoaster ride of going viral.

‘Keep Rolling’ follows player Herbz (a clever nod to KFC’s 11 herbs and spices, but more Easter eggs later) as he takes a dive on the field during a soccer match and rolls all the way across town to the nearest KFC. Guys, we’ve all seen the ad. It’s funny, it’s relevant, it’s a worldwide celebration of creative brilliance, beautiful execution and timing, with a dash of planets being aligned. It’s the viral dream. To add insult to their competitor’s injury, KFC weren’t even a sponsor of the World Cup and, due to this ad, they have been listed and spoken about as one of this year’s biggest advertisers. For a South African team to have created that is a massive success and we are filled with all the feels.

Before we go further, we gotta give a shout-out to this client. Ogilvy Cape Town and Karien Cherry could not stop gushing about the brave and brilliant KFC Africa, who showed the team so much support, respect and trust and inspired them to create something that would make KFC the topic of conversation. As creatives, that’s the best starting point anyone could ask for. Big ups KFC, Streetwise 2’s on us next time! 😉

The Idea Came First

The big idea came about 6 months ago when we were watching some footballers diving on a field and I said ‘wow these guys are really making a meal of it’ and the penny dropped. – Steven Lipschitz, Ogilvy Copywriter.

But of course, hindsight is 20/20 and back then, even back a week ago, nobody could have predicted the response. We certainly couldn’t have predicted that footballer Neymar would end up spending an exorbitant amount of time rolling around on the field during the tournament (14 minutes to be exact), perfectly playing into the ad, which flighted a whole 2 weeks before the World Cup. The commmercial was originally only intended for distribution in nine different countries on the continent, excluding South Africa, but KFC SA wisely ran the ad locally too #GoTeam and they weren’t the only ones who deemed it a zinger (apologies). Soon almost every relevant media agency across the globe was contributing to the (unpaid for) distribution #ChaChing. In fact, on Monday 9 July, the video had already racked up almost 8 million views on 9Gag’s Instagram account, oppa Gangnam Style!

iDidTht: This was one of those big budget soccer ads right? It must have been so easy to pull off, a real joy.
Giant Films Director Karien Cherry: Haha! Not exactly. I was given a very limited budget. But one of the key things for me was to give the ad the scale that soccer ads need. So I thought long and hard about how to shoot, how to layer the frames, what lenses to use etc. I loved the filmmaking challenge of making this big thing out of very little resources.
Creative Group Head Saf Sindhi: And believe us, everything that could go wrong, did.
iDidTht: (Grabs popcorn) Tell us everything!
Karien: For example, a few days before the shoot we had to entirely redesign the uniforms and get them sewn.
Saf: And then there was the night before the shoot.
Karien: So call time is at 5am the next morning and I’m still at the office that night at 8pm doing the shooting schedule myself, you know, to save some costs. We get a call from Saf saying ‘heeeeeeeeey sorry but we now have to add a food consumption shot’. I just said ‘look I’m not shooting food without a food stylist’. So now everyone is freaking out because we need to find a food stylist in 9 hours, in the middle of the night.
Creative Group Head Alex Goldberg: But we got one! And we could only shoot over two days! And of course, the one day that the Cape Town drought breaks is on our shoot day so we had to have a weather day.

*Alex would like to note that he was very happy that the drought broke though.

Karien: Yes it ended up raining ANNNNDD we were on our way to shoot at Cape Town station during the bus strikes! Then the lead actor playing Herbz, who is an actor and not a soccer player, pulled a muscle.
iDidTht: Do we need to get Human Resources on the line? Surely you had a stunt double for all that rolling?
Karien: Haha, no. We used the stunt double to set up the shots and get everything ready and then when camera and background etc was ready we’d put our main guy in. By the end of the second day I approached him to give him some direction and he just recoiled in fear, thinking I was about to ask him to roll some more. He was amazing. We would not have gotten through the shoot without him. He was up for anything, even with a pulled muscle!

Director Karien Cherry on set sharing some rolling tips with the lead actor | The sexy KFC and creative team | Karien (pre-viral-fame) viewing playbacks 

iDidTht: Did you cast your lead with Neymar in mind?
Karien: Not at all! We shot this two weeks before the tournament. Neymar made himself the poster child for this ad!
Art Director Sibs Zihle: Neymar copied us!

Team Huddle

iDidTht: There’s an incredible energy between all of you, like you’ve just been in the wars and came out with viral success. What was the process like working together?
Karien: Coming into this kind of agency/client relationship is just so amazing. KFC Africa trusts Ogilvy Cape Town and the team trust my vision completely, and that trust creates a great working environment. Just one example out of many that I remember was when we had the weather day, we rained out that skateboard scene and it was going to cost a lot to pick up that shot the next day. We were on a stretched budget already. So we had 6 clients on set chatting to Saf and Cathy Day (Ogilvy Head of Broadcast). They called me over and asked if I really needed that scene to make the commercial work, because it was going to cost a lot of money. The fact that I turned around and said yes and they said ‘Okay cool. If we need it, we’ll do it!’, that trust is a wonderful feeling.
Associate Executive Creative Director Nicholas Wittenberg: I feel the success of our work with KFC Africa is because we have a fluid process that allows interaction between the whole team. So when any of us have an idea we talk directly with the client, and vice verse. This creates a real relationship, which leads to better understanding, turnaround times and work.

That Viral Feeling

9Gag, The Sun, USA Today, New York Times, The Times, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, CNN, Fox News, you name it and this ad has made headlines! All across Australia, France, Russia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and beyond!

The team capturing the moment the ad on 9Gag reached 1 million views.

iDidTht: At what point did it hit you that this was gonna be big?
Steven: When I saw Oh My Goal share our video and it was already on a million views.
Sibs: …In like two hours!
iDidTht: So were you tracking this online?
Karien: Do you think anyone got any work done last week?
Steven: Then it just snowballed from there.
iDidTht: Do you remember that exact moment?
Sibs: Steven just said to me ‘dude dude dude’ and then I was like ‘it’s finally happening! We’re going viral!’
Everyone (with some high-fiving): HAHAHAHAHAHA!

Saf: For me the trigger was that game between Brazil and Serbia because Neymar’s roll off the sideline was almost exactly like Herbz’s roll in our TV ad and people started making the connection and that’s when it went viral.
Steven: My thought was ‘Wow, Neymar nailed it, perfect delivery!’ Some Brazilians are even calling us the Simpsons because they think we predicted this.
Alex: My friend messaged me and said we’d made it onto 9Gag. Every time you refreshed, the views would just increase by like 100 000.
Nic: That’s certainly when I realised something big was happening.
Karien: And it was quite a trip tracking the different time zones. You’re following one time zone’s response online and then it gets to 11 o’clock at night and then America wakes up and it all starts again.
Alex: Haha yeah. Also, Neymar was a catalyst for it to go viral, but it was orchestrated.  A dive is so divisive, yet it attracted people who both love and hate football. So we could tap into a market that wasn’t even part of the consumer audience. It also took some smart thinking in terms of seeding to get this piece in the right place for the masses to pick up on it. A lot of people stepped out of their respective discipline to get Herbz rolling.

When great strategy, timing, trust, creative, PR and execution all came together to meet in one magical moment, viral greatness is destined to happen. Well done Giant Films, KFC and Ogilvy Cape Town…now get back to refreshing that video!

Easter Eggs

Sibs and Steven: Hey, before you stop reading, here are some Easter eggs in the ad. As iDidTht mentioned, our lead was named Herbz and he was number 11, as in KFC’s 11 herbs and spices. The team names were CFK vs HGL and that was meant as KFC vs Hungry Lion 😉 Some advertising boards in the background looked Russian because we had Chicken spelt backwards and the VTC was Very Tasty Chicken. Every single player in red had a name of Herbz or Spices but in different African languages…so we literally had eleven herbs and spices!

This was a huge team effort and we couldn’t catch up with everyone but Giant Films and Ogilvy Cape Town would like to give a virtual hug to the whole team that made this ad a viral success:
KFC Africa/South Africa – Dewald Duplooy, Suhayl Limbada, Palesa Munzara, Tumelo Monare, Cassandra Appenteng, Anna Maphanga
Agency – Ogilvy Cape Town, Pete Case, Tseliso Rangaka, Nicholas Wittenberg, Safaraaz Sindhi, Alex Goldberg, Sibs Zihle, Steven Lipschitz, Cathy Day, Nabeelah Sayed, Emma Fairlie / Delivery manager: Sinovuyo Ngcwama
Production company – Giant Films, Karien Cherry, Emma Lundy, Laura Sampson
On Set – DP: Devin Toselli / Stylist: Elton Campbell / Art director: Laurence Bishop
Editing – Deliverance, Anthony Lee Martin
Music and Sound: Pressure Cooker, The Workroom, Stephen Webster
Post production: Strangelove / VFX post production: Charmaine Greyling / Colourist: Nic Apostoli

View Giant Films

Contact Giant Films

View Giant Films Profile on iDidTht
Executive Producers: Cindy Gabriel / Emma Lundy /

Produced by the iDidTht Content Studio
Credits: Writer – Anne Hirsch / Art Director – Julie Maunder

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