A television ad for KFC was cleared by regulators after a complaint was filed that it was perpetuating negative ethnic stereotypes by showing two black men ordering fried chickens.
The ad, which ran in March, showed the two men waiting at a KFC restaurant counter while a voice over said, “Get 10 KFC mini fillets for £ 4.99 and feel good like a big deal. “
As the men gathered up their food, their legs turned into chicken legs and feathers swam around them as they strutted and danced to hip-hop music on the way to their table while other customers watched.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received three complaints that the ad maintained negative ethnic stereotypes, in particular that all blacks like to eat fried chicken.
The complaints also found that the ad showed the actors in streetwear dancing to a hip-hop soundtrack.
Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) said the ad is promoting the “Big Deal” range of chicken fillets and the transformation of the two men into animated chickens, along with the change in lighting and bold music track, should express the transformative feeling of saving money.
KFC said it didn’t think the ad implied that people of any particular race were more or less likely to be a KFC diner or eat the product, noting that people of different races were sitting in the restaurant.
The two lead actors were brothers chosen as a precaution amid Covid-19 social distancing restrictions, and the ad was one of six series starring various actors of various ethnicities, including white actors.
Advertising agency Clearcast said it was considering previous KFC campaigns that animated actors’ heads like chickens, all of which used a hip-hop-inspired soundtrack.
The ASA said it understood that there was a historical link between blacks and the cooking and eating of fried chickens, so it looked to see if the ad reinforced a negative ethnic stereotype.
The regulator said, “We found that the ad featured a number of people of different ethnicities who were also eating at the restaurant. While the black characters were flashy, we didn’t think they were derisive or derogatory.
“We found the ad presented the young men as fun-loving, confident and playful, who felt happy because they received a money-saving offer for their food, which was reflected in their smiling faces, proud walks and dancing. Feathers and music added to the carefree feel of the ad.
“We didn’t take into account that the ad suggests that all black fried chicken is or is more likely to eat than any other ethnic group.
“While we acknowledged that some viewers who saw the ad, aware of the existence of the historic negative ethnic stereotype, might find it distasteful, we thought it was unlikely that the ad maintained that stereotype, and so we came to this Conclusion that the ad is unlikely. ” to cause serious or widespread crime. “