Some thoughts on the KFC racist ad brou-ha-ha

January 11th, 2010 § 5 comments § permalink

Sometime last week I read somewhere that KFC pulled their annoying ad due to accusations of racism. First thought – Yay, I don’t have to put up with it any more. I’m a cricket fan, and watched every match through summer. The ad was annoying the first time they aired it. Couple it with the whole series of ads, and the sheer number of times it airs in a day, and you’ll understand my pain. (Plus I’m against fast food sponsoring sports. I’m also against fast food. Anyways…) Second thought – Yeh, it was off-putting, but I didn’t think it was racist.

Oh, in case you aren’t a cricket fan, and haven’t seen it even once:

Today I saw a tweet by @MashableOur most retweeted post right now: “Is This KFC Ad Racist? – and I groaned.

I kinda feel sorry for Australia right now. It’s been on the receiving end of a lot of racism accusations over the past couple of months, some just, others not so in my opinion. (And to everyone who’s been asking – Yes, I’m fine. No, there isn’t more racism here than there is anywhere else.)

So, back to the ad. Some thoughts –

  • It is annoying. I’m glad they pulled it.
  • It made sense in the context it had been airing in – during cricket matches, when Australia and the West Indies were playing. (I can’t say for sure if it was aired outside those hours)
  • It was personally off-putting to me because it was targeting the Aussie white male. As most ads during sports events do. Because I guess only Aussie white males watch sport on that channel. (The ‘us vs them’ context of the ad irked me more than anything)
  • I’ve come to welcome the targeted ads. It means I’m not being marketed to. I like that. Leave me alone.
  • It’s endemic of the ad industry. Either I’m a super-minority, or they generally do a poor job of making ads that speak to me.
  • (from an earlier tweet) Is KFC halal in Aust? If it were, would they have made the same ad, this time with the guy sitting amongst Pakistani supporters?
  • If such an ad were made for the Aust v Pak matches (or Aust v Ind for the sake of argument though the Indian team doesn’t play here this summer), would the people crying foul still be crying foul?
  • Ads these days aren’t local. Even if specifically made for a local audience. Marketers need to keep that in mind. (This actually makes me feel sorry for them. *gasp*)
  • If the local needs to keep the global context in mind, shouldn’t the global keep local contexts in mind?

  • The last two points I find the most troubling. Audiences are global now. We’ve all seen cute/funny/quirky local ads shared on Twitter, forums, Facebook, blogs, via e-mail etc. But if I were making an ad, just how much consideration would I need to give to sentiments of the global audience before I lose all context for my local audience? And is it reasonable to assume that I will be able to avoid the localised rules of the global audience? (I needed an explanation for the racist angle of the KFC ad.)

    The ‘global’ audience can only make meaning of a piece of content within their own frames of discourse (the ‘localised rules’ mentioned earlier). Once the meaning is made, is it then reasonable to level accusations of racism and expect others, with their own frames of reference, to defer to their interpretation? Doesn’t that then lead to those with a louder voice being heard more? Swapping different meaning-making references is how we educate each other, but where do we draw the lines between sharing and insisting one is more correct than the other? Should there be lines drawn?

    The questions never end, and I have no answers, so I’ll leave it here. The only thing I know is that KFC pulling the ad in Australia worries me more than the ad itself.

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