A Southern Chicken Chain Celebrates Anime Cosplay, but It’s Not Mainstream Just Yet

Cool new spot from Zaxby's

You can love eating chicken and dressing up like an anime character, because Zaxby’s thinks different flavors are what makes the world go round.
Zaxby’s is a fast-food franchise that operates in the southern U.S., selling fried chicken on Texas toast. It’s headquartered in Georgia, where I live, and has a host of restaurants here. Georgia also happens to be the home of Dragon Con, one of the largest sci-fi conventions in the world with a robust cosplay scene. (Georgia also hosts MomoCon, Outlantacon, and Anime Weekend Atlanta.)
Zaxby’s did its cosplay homework for this ad. It features a group of girls getting together to put the finishing touches on their group costumes. The sewing machine comes out, along with the selfies, as the gaggle of ladies dress up in some off-label Sailor Moon outfits tailor-made to prevent Zaxby’s from being sued for copyright infringement. Then they head off to the con, and we see them traveling down the escalator at the hotel while an off-label Spawn and generic elf barbarian warrior chat in the foreground.

Zaxby’s is on-point in every aspect of the spot, even normalizing a black cosplayer playing a (presumably) non-black character … which is great because the online cosplay community needs to be less judgmental about who gets to cosplay who.
I can only assume the reaction has been positive, given the comments and the fact that the video has received over 700,000 views on Facebook as of this writing. But it’s particularly interesting that this Zaxby’s spot was released a week before an attack ad targeting Jon Ossoff—a Democratic candidate for Georgia’s Sixth District—alleging he was unfit to serve because he cosplayed as Han Solo.
That means cosplay is still not popular enough, even in Georgia, to be mainstream. And that’s part of the Zaxby’s ad. By declaring its particular flavor as “different,” Zaxby’s puts cosplay in the category of other. And maybe that’s why the video isn’t available on Zaxby’s YouTube channel or even on its Facebook page in the regular video section. It’s being targeted to a particular audience, which I somehow managed to fit.
But the judgment that “grown adults going around in costume is unacceptable” is going to change over time. At some point, you won’t be allowed to be a political candidate without videos of your younger shenanigans online. And Zaxby’s won’t be so chicken about posting its cosplay ads direct to their YouTube page.

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@rebeccacullers Rebecca Cullers is a contributor to Adweek.