Welcome to my blog on Video, Marketing, Business, and San Francisco living.
TheCommich says – enjoy!

The Controversy! The Humanity!

Browsing through Twitter the other day, I came upon a Mashable tweet asking if a certain KFC ad, released in Australia, was “racist” or not:

Apparently American audiences took exception to the fact that a white person was trying to make good with members of the opposing team’s supporters (who happen to be black) by sharing a bucket of chicken with them. A veiled reference to the racial stereotype that African-Americans like fried chicken? Maybe…. except that:

a) the ad was aired in Australia, where it went uncommented on for weeks before it juuust so happened to land on YouTube and draw the ire of the Upset Online. AND

b) the “black fans” in the audience were cast as supporters of the West Indies team… not African-Americans, and again, not a population that would be particularly insulted by the sharing of KFC buckets.

Liberal web news group The Young Turks  went so far as to microanalyze the ad, with a black news anchor saying “look at how civilized that white man is… while all the West Indies fans have the drumbeats going on… but you give them some chicken and they shut the hell up and act civilized.” This apparently is proof that KFC is championing the “civilized” white Australian fan,  thus perpetuating the White Power stereotype, instead of the obvious connotation that the poor guy is completely out of his element, having been stupid enough to buy tickets in the “away” seats.

After all the hubbub and to-do online, the Damn Yanks apparently triumphed – raising enough of a stink from all the way across the world to prompt KFC into pulling the ad in Oz. Aussies around the world cried “fowl”… calling the venerable Colonel, not surprisingly, a chicken. 

Now, I am a naturally positive person and I do recommend that most if not all marketing campaigns run on a positive, non-offensive platform. Which is why, when I feel that what I’ve said or done is NOT offensive, even if interpreted as such by others who insist of finding the cloud in every silver lining, I tend to stick to my guns and dig in.

The KFC ad ran on a “problem solved” formula – man in dire straits is out of his element surrounded by people unlike him. Thanks to the product, he overcomes the awkwardness and makes friends. All is right with the world and KFC made it happen. Hoorah!

You can take that template and plug in any combination of cultural differences: “Aussie fan surrounded by West Indies fans”, “Young Gay Dad surrounded by Old, Conservative Rural Parents”, “scruffy urban girl surrounded by prep-school rich boys…” etc. etc. Similarly, you can use the “solution” for your product of choice: “fried chicken,” “chocolate bonbons”, “Coca Cola, “brass monkeys.”

How in the world then, did a whole passel of Americans online see the ad and conjure “Uppity white person shows his civility in the midst of unruly drum banging blacks and tries to shut them up by giving them fried chicken, which as we all know, they can’t resist?”

Dude… what? Have I already mentioned this ad wasn’t even aired in the US??

In a previous post, thecommich dared readers to “wear their convictions on their sleeves.” Stand up for your principles and what you believe in. Defend your point of view! Colonel Sanders was obviously not a reader (yet), but from a purely marketing perspective, methinks he did worse by pandering to the howls of his US market over the Australian one – not only the market they spent all that ad money trying to attract, but for God’s sake, the market that actually defended the ad on behalf of the company.

On the small business scale – thecommich suggests the following:

1) Make sure you are always speaking to your target market. If you are, then finger pointers and “OMG”ers can’t get to you. Of course the Displeased Others don’t get what your saying – you’re not talking to them.

2) Accept that you will never please everybody – and remember, a controversial ad is better than a boring one. Therefore – it’s time to train yourself to take hits and complaints about your marketing or ad campaigns without freaking out or backing down. You can take the more finessed points about why your campaign is not effective or how you could make it better, but don’t change your campaign just because of a couple of negative comments. If Godaddy or Victoria’s Secret did that after the whirlwind of naysayers slammed “the sexification of superbowl ads”, they wouldn’t be the powerhouses they are today (and, may I add, some of the only companies that can currently afford to advertise at the Superbowl).

3) That said, don’t be antagonistic or controversial just for the sake of doing it. You’re not 7 years old. You don’t need to punch your target audience in the arm to prove you like ’em. Concentrate on the message, let the chips lie wither they may, and if there’s a bump in web activity over your advertising, so much the better!

**Next Post:  More jaw-dropping commercials, and with your help, a fun debate on what makes “bad” advertising.

2 Comments

  1. Danni
    January 12, 2010

    i can see how some american's could get offended, but COME ON people. how self-centered of them to think that the team who made this tv commercial was as racist as they were.

  2. Danni
    January 12, 2010

    bad advertising: scam ads.