Americans Call Australian KFC Ad Racist. Who Cares?



The ad above, featuring a white cricketer appeasing a Carribbean crowd with fried chicken
, is promoting a cricket match between Australia and the West Indies. It would be a major no-no in the United States. Here, the ad plays into an old stereotype about African-Americans and fried chicken. But if the ad was never intended for an US audience, does that uniquely American context still count? The Guardian has more:

Although intended only for an Antipodean audience, the clip has quickly found its way around the world on the internet, prompting stinging criticism in the US where fried chicken remains closely associated with age-old racist stereotypes about black people in the once segregated south.

KFC Australia has come out fighting, saying that the commercial was a “light-hearted reference to the West Indian cricket team” that had been “misinterpreted by a segment of people in the US.”

The company said: “The ad was reproduced online in the US without KFC’s permission, where we are told a culturally-based stereotype exists, leading to the incorrect assertion of racism.

In the Australian media, the reaction has been mixed, with some commentators accusing Americans of “insularity”. Brendon O’Connor, an associate professor at the University of Sydney, told 9 Network News that the association between fried chicken and ethnic minorities was a distinctly US issue: “They have a tendency to think that their history is more important than that of other countries.”

Does an American company have a responsibility to avoid producing content that would be racially sensitive in America in other countries? I don’t think so. There are no global regulations or even de facto laws against delivering ads that one country (but not another) finds racist, so KFC can choose to advertise whatever it wants outside of its home country. If West Indians and Australians find the ad offensive, then the company needs to do something about it. If Chinese, Brazilians, Armenians, or Americans find the ad offensive, that doesn’t obligate KFC to do anything about it.

The ad isn’t targeted at Americans. It operates in a completely different cultural context. What we find offensive might not be offensive to West Indians and Australians at all. So why implicate an American-based multinational for tweaking its campaigns to the countries in which it operates? It’s part of doing business in those countries.

The fact that Americans got their hands on this ad in the first place has to do with the speed and efficiency of Internet technology, with which international policy has not caught up. If Americans truly feel that this ad violates international cultural mores, they need to put energy into formulating an international law, not criticizing one company for operating outside of a familiar context.

UPDATE: KFC has removed the ad. Here’s their statement: “KFC Australia is removing the television advertisement that was being run in conjunction with the Australian cricket season. We apologize for any misinterpretation of the ad as it was not meant to offend anyone.”

More Popular Stories:






Subscribe

Comments

  1. Steve's Gravatar Comment by Steve on January 6th, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    As an Australian, I find the fact that Americans root for a team to be morally repugnant (look up what rooting means to Australians). Please remove all references to “rooting” from your cultural exports – including movies, TV, and advertising.

  2. Kate Battista's Gravatar Comment by Kate Battista on January 6th, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    “The ad isn’t targeted at Americans. It operates in a completely different cultural context.”

    True. However we live in an age where your ad can quickly reach an unintended audience. Companies who wish to advertise to multiple groups of people who all have different cultural baggage need to be aware that if, for example, 56% of their customers are English all of their ads need to be English friendly. Even if a particular ad is only aired in Belgium, it could show up on Youtube in moments and reach an Englishman who might not appreciate a particular joke or image (even if the intentions were pure). You can’t please everyone, but if you’re running a company it makes sense to not offend large groups of customers. This ad has the potential to create a huge backlash in America where KFC has a lot of storefronts.

  3. Kate Battista's Gravatar Comment by Kate Battista on January 6th, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    “The fact that Americans got their hands on this ad in the first place has to do with the speed and efficiency of Internet technology, with which international policy has not caught up. If Americans truly feel that this ad violates international cultural mores, they need to put energy into formulating an international law,”

    Also, I don’t think this is a great idea. Being a jerk is not a crime. What I think needs to happen is that all countries need to become more familier with current cultural baggage in other countries. Had KFC Australia been better informed of the history of their own product all this might have been avoided. We’re becoming a global community whether we like it or not, so its best we get to know the new neighbors :)

  4. jim's Gravatar Comment by jim on January 6th, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    http://www.koalanet.com.au/australian-slang.html calls it “A very useful word in fairly polite company.” ;)

  5. Idgarad's Gravatar Comment by Idgarad on January 6th, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Why is it the very people who demand the USA be more culturally sensitive abroad are the first to tell the USA that they should mind their own business? Shouldn’t we all be considerate about cultural sensitivity or is this just another reminder that the only thing humans do exceptionally well is hypocracy?

  6. Eliza Thorn's Gravatar Comment by Eliza Thorn on January 6th, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    I’m an Australian. Calling this ad racist is ridiculous! There has been friendly rivalry between the West Indies and the Australian cricket team for as long as I can remember. The West Indies are touring here at the moment, so KFC have been doing a series of ads for the cricket season, this happens to be one of them. If the English cricket team where here they would have done an Australian cricketer with a bunch of the English “barmy army” supporters and nobody would have said a word. Cricket is a HUGE sport here and in the West Indies – America – get over it – this has nothing to do with you and has been taken in the wrong context completely. It wasnt racist, it was and ad with an Australian cricketer with a bunch of West Indie supporters, given them KFC to eat – what is the problem!??? Get over yourselves…….

  7. Drea's Gravatar Comment by Drea on January 6th, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Kate–Good points. It would be enlightened if companies would meet standards of not offending any group within the global community with their ads. If we want that to be the case, we should start talking about how to accomplish that. (Companies might do it naturally if there’s a massive stink every time they insult anyone across the globe.) But I maintain that under current business standards and practices, KFC didn’t do anything wrong. The company’s intended target was Australia, where it didn’t insult anyone. It’s not the company’s responsibility that people chose to forward the ad. If it is, well…we’re still at the base of that learning curve IMO.

    The other thing that I didn’t think of before: What if KFC *likes* the controversy? It’s getting its name out there internationally right now. A million people who wouldn’t otherwise have had KFC on the brain now do. It’s an interesting dynamic.

    Steve–I take it you guys don’t have root beer?

    Jim–Cool dog pics.

  8. Jim's Gravatar Comment by Jim on January 6th, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Disclaimer: The knee jerk, hypersensitive, politically correct, looking for something to rally against attitude prevalent in many Americans today is not the attitude of ALL Americans. Perhaps I should move down under….

  9. Eliza Thorn's Gravatar Comment by Eliza Thorn on January 6th, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    We dont have root beer here in Australia. A root is a f**k :)

  10. John's Gravatar Comment by John on January 6th, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    “Comment by Idgarad on January 6th, 2010 at 2:49 pm
    Why is it the very people who demand the USA be more culturally sensitive abroad are the first to tell the USA that they should mind their own business? Shouldn’t we all be considerate about cultural sensitivity or is this just another reminder that the only thing humans do exceptionally well is hypocracy?”

    When others complain about ignorant Americans it’s because they are tyring to apply their own “culture” when in other countries just as you are doing with this ad. It was not intended for an American audience and we in Australia are under no obligation to cater to your nations racist stereotypes. Your racist association of black people and fried chicken does not exist in my countries culture. Your culture is not universal!

    If you really believe the crap you wrote then I suggest you alter the way you live in your country to make it more culturally sensitive to bastions of freedom and civilisation like Saudi Arabia and Iran. Don’t want to do that? Hypocrite!

  11. Movin Miranda's Gravatar Comment by Movin Miranda on January 6th, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    anyone who knows the context of the ad and the cricketing rivalries between teams like England-Australia, Australia-India, Australia-West Indies and India-Pakistan would not find that ad offensive. I am Indian and we love the passion of the West Indian cricket-watching spectators, England’s barmy army and even the notorious Aussie crowd on SCG’s “hill.” If we can laugh together openly about our differences, that is not bad. The kind of Racism I fear is far more subtle, unstated and insidiuous.

  12. Sammy J's Gravatar Comment by Sammy J on January 6th, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Bloody Yanks- and you wonder why the world hates you? Because you think you own it! Believe it or not, not everybody knows, or cares, about your racist stereotypes. Let other people from other cultures get on with their own lives whilst you rot in your own f**ked up racist country.

  13. Geoff C's Gravatar Comment by Geoff C on January 7th, 2010 at 4:04 am

    Who cares!

    I don’t understand why this is even making news. Must be a quiet week in America.

    Let KFC get on with business and Americans get back to being perfect.

  14. Grant's Gravatar Comment by Grant on January 7th, 2010 at 4:08 am

    Grow up America, everything in this world isn’t about you !!!

    You wanna start on racism.. What about the ‘N’ word you use on TV, movies, music etc. Pot calling the kettle black i think.

  15. Dex's Gravatar Comment by Dex on January 7th, 2010 at 5:09 am

    The problems is in understanding whats going on in the ad. The “white guy in the middle of a group of black people”, as some people have described it, is actually an Australian cricket fan in the middle of a group of West indies cricket fans during a test. That is why the situation is awkward for him. Australians see a group of cricket fans, Americans see black and white.
    Second. I don’t understand why African-Americans aren’t allowed to eat fried chicken. So maybe some one should explain it instead of assuming the whole world knows what you’re talking about.
    Besides, Americans make stereotype jokes about Australians, British people, Irish, Scottish, French, the list goes on, yet that’s okay. Why? Saying that it is okay to make fun of one race and not another is racist.
    I’ve got some advice for Americans. Chill out, relax, stop being so tense all the time. Learn to laugh at yourselves, I’m going to finish with an Australian joke.
    An American comes to Australia for a holiday and gets stopped by customs who ask.”Have you ever had a Criminal record?”
    The American replies. “I didn’t think I still needed one to get into the country”.
    See. It’s okay to laugh at yourself.

  16. Nathan's Gravatar Comment by Nathan on January 7th, 2010 at 10:33 am

    In context, I as an American don’t find the ad offensive. Taken out of context though, I can see how others would be offended.

    KFC is a business that serves its goods to multiple countries with rich and diverse cultural histories.

    That said, they need to take into consideration the effects of their ad wherever it can be viewed.

    If the ad’s net effect is to reduce their income overall, then it probably shouldn’t be aired. Money speaks.

    I could also care less if parts of the world have a distaste of American influence. The influence isn’t a one way thing. There is good and bad influences everywhere. And simply put, we all have idiots that misrepresent us from time to time.

  17. Idgarad's Gravatar Comment by Idgarad on January 7th, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    “Comment by Idgarad on January 6th, 2010 at 2:49 pm
    Why is it the very people who demand the USA be more culturally sensitive abroad are the first to tell the USA that they should mind their own business? Shouldn’t we all be considerate about cultural sensitivity or is this just another reminder that the only thing humans do exceptionally well is hypocracy?”

    Comment by John on January 6th, 2010 at 8:40 pm
    When others complain about ignorant Americans it’s because they are tyring to apply their own “culture” when in other countries just as you are doing with this ad. It was not intended for an American audience and we in Australia are under no obligation to cater to your nations racist stereotypes. Your racist association of black people and fried chicken does not exist in my countries culture. Your culture is not universal!

    That is my point. I cannot count the number of times that other non-usa countries demand that the USA be sensitive to their sterotypes, cultural sensitivities, etc. But, as your reaction points out, it’s a goose-gander issue.

    It comes down to either we are considerate to ALL cuturals sensitivities or we are not, and if we are not then there shouldn’t be an issue at all.

    A good example was a short lived issue in the 80s between the USA and Britian concerning nudity in commercials. Europe has very loose standards compared to the USA apparently. There were some in the USA that were offended when some ads, via cable were from Britian ended up running. We complained and the Brit’s were right in stating “Their for us not you, quit complaining.”

    Fine and dandy, but later some ads from the USA were considered inappropriate for Brit’s and they complained (something about gun violence in the commercial). The irony was, I believe it was Ted Turner, who copied their original complaint response and faxed it back to them substituting the words accordingly. Regardless of country we as humans tend to demand tolerance from others but are just as apt to be intolerant of others. It’s a universal human behavior.

    Censorship standards abound to highlight this behavior in all people. The USA is perfect example: No breasts on TV commercials but chopping someone’s head off is okay. Germany: Boobs ok but no swastikas. AU has some weirds video game censorship standards, the list goes on. The irony is everyone seems to have an opinion on everyone elses standards but when the argument comes around it’s universally “Ours OK, Yours Not OK”. Thusly, humans do hypocracy better then any other animal out there.

    It’s OK that we (AU) are insenstive to the USA’s racial tensions because the audience is in the AU but it not okay for the USA to be insensitive to say German’s standards for Nazi peripheniala (even when sold in the USA), or AU’s video game standards for violence, etc. The USA, AU, and just about any other country has that same standard of “Our standards Good, Your Standards, Bad.” We either have to accept the fact you will always piss someone off or we should all get along. It’s an ancient debate going back to the nature of soverignty at a local, regional, and now global level.

  18. auschick's Gravatar Comment by auschick on January 7th, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    @Kate Battista – it’s unrealistic to think that a company in one country who is creating an advertisement for that country will research every other country *just in case* it might offend a people group. It is *very* unlikely that American marketers would do this when creating ads for the American market, and it shouldn’t be expected that foreign countries would do this either.

  19. Rickard's Gravatar Comment by Rickard on January 7th, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    I find it strange that some people would cry foul at this KFC ad when Popeye’s Chicken has run similar ads for a few years. Here is a link to their latest ad:

    http://www.popeyes.com/tvspot.php

    Popeye’s Chicken has advertised Louisiana Kitchen chicken and has had either a black man or a black woman preparing the chicken. I have heard no outcry about the Popeye’s Chicken ads, and these have certainly run in the US. This outcry makes no sense. If I had been KFC, I would not have pulled the ad; instead I would have pointed to the Popeye’s ad.

  20. Kimba's Gravatar Comment by Kimba on January 7th, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    I’m still trying to work out how Americans can influence KFC to ban an ad that isn’t even airing in their country [they saw it on youtube!] – especially when it hasn’t got anything to do with their sporting culture …

  21. Jayne's Gravatar Comment by Jayne on January 7th, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    This is over the top, Australia has a different culture and it was about sporting teams in Cricket, no-one finds the ads offensive here in Australia as it’s not aimed at colour but sporting rivalry. I think some Americans not all Americans need to realise that we don’t have all the same issues as America and we are culturally different in terms of humour. The ad wasn’t aimed at African Americans it was aimed at the West Indies and Australian fans who are touring here at the moment and there is always great banter between Cricket fans, as far as I’m aware West Indians aren’t African American! Maybe some Americans should be aware of our culture and not always think straight away it is aimed at them. In short, political correctness gone crazy and obviously it’s a slow media week in America!

  22. J.B.'s Gravatar Comment by J.B. on January 8th, 2010 at 3:33 am

    What about “fanny”, maybe we should make the yanks take that out of their movies, tv etc.

  23. KC's Gravatar Comment by KC on January 8th, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Leave it to Americans to impose their own hypocritical hypersensitivities on a friggin ad in the other part of the world. I’m American and found nothing wrong with it, and then even laughed after Eliza talks about the rivalry. I think there is that fraction of people here that likes to stick their noses in other people’s asses because it makes them forget about the more serious problems we have here. Hopefully someday we can quiet every little pisser with a bitch and concentrate on the big picture. Good luck with the tournament AU!
    On a side note.. your slang for “rooting” is awsome LOL

  24. Billy Bob's Gravatar Comment by Billy Bob on January 9th, 2010 at 1:40 am

    and you wonder why these crazy terrorists keep trying to commit crimes upon America….. The ad has nothing to do with your country, get over yourselves. They couldn’t put a bunch of white people to represent the West-Indies. The ad makes sense to where it was directed. It wasn’t meant for Americans to understand even if they could access it online.

  25. uncensoredmind's Gravatar Comment by uncensoredmind on January 9th, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    i live in jamaica and found absolutely nothing wrong with the ad. rivalry between the west indies and australian cricket teams has been good inspiration for marketing companies during times of game play. im pretty sure our beer company, red stripe, has done similar types of ads aimed at poking fun at australians. i hardly think they mind at all. and as a matter of fact when games are played here in Jamaica it is not at all unusual to have spectators buying buckets of KFC chicken to take to matches. so trust me the west indians and australians dont really care.

    its unfortunate that KFC has removed the ad because the ad really does hit home. it does speak of a reality at cricket matches. now Americans wouldnt get that since the sport isnt apart of their culture as it is ours. now i dont mind companies being culturally aware but if ads arent presented in such a way that that particular ad can appeal to the intended market then it will fail.

    Americans who believe the world needs to cater to them need to take a step back and realise that the world doesnt revolve around them. the ad wasnt racist and the australian people (or any others) shouldnt have to watch their backs just in case Americans are offended. at the end of the day americans dont care who they offend with their culture. all thats important is the preservation of the “american way”. please try to understand that the rest of us like our way too. we accept urs with all its good and bad. its time for u to do the same.

  26. windiesfan's Gravatar Comment by windiesfan on January 10th, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    Like all Australian cricket fans its not too extravagant for me to express a great admiration, love and respect for both the West Indian Cricket team, who have produced some of the most electric and fantastic cricketers of all time, and the West Indian crowds, who must surely be the best in the world. The KFC ad, being targeted at Australian cricket fans, was in fact the opposite of the rather disturbing racist interpretation that’s being suggested by some in the US. I think that is why so many of us here find the complaints coming out of the US so very insulting. Not only are the commentators completely ignorant of Australian culture, they are completely, nay, criminally, ignorant of the game of cricket. And as for the withdrawing of this ad by KFC to placate the racial sensitivities of the US, surely this is taking the Cultural Imperialism from the United States more than a little too far. We might like American fried chicken, but we have enough racist issues of our own without having to embrace America’s as well.

  27. arybary's Gravatar Comment by arybary on January 11th, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Im a Trinidadian and also found nothing offensive about the ad. It was actually amusing. We are the ones who should be offended had we found the ad racist, but it was not and as such there is a reason why West Indians are not kicking up a fuss about it.

  28. wtp's Gravatar Comment by wtp on January 16th, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    So if this ad is racist, why no mention of the MetroPCS Tech & Talk Spicy News commercial?

  29. Notoracism's Gravatar Comment by Notoracism on January 24th, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    I think its the ozzies who are ‘Racist’ rather than blaming the yanks.. Look whats happening to Indians down there in Melbourne and Sydney.. Its hatred against anyone not of their kin.. thats what we see..look at the facebook groups for australians about “non-english speakers” Look at the numbers of people subscribing..These are all racist groups… This is just a small ad and I find it fitting that KFC removed it…

  30. Marcus's Gravatar Comment by Marcus on January 29th, 2010 at 11:06 am

    I am a black American and think that people who are “offended” by this ad need to get a life. There is nothing racist abouut this ad. Some people will find racism anywhere just to push thier own agenda.

  31. khadada's Gravatar Comment by khadada on January 30th, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    What??! I am shocked that this is the ad creating all this buzz. The only reason Americans can possibly think this ad is offensive is because they have no idea of the cricket culture. Its is not a black v white ad, this is an Australian v WI ad. I am west indian and i think this ad could have aired in any caribbean island and noone would have taken offense. Get a life critics.

  32. Kurt's Gravatar Comment by Kurt on February 4th, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    It is so clearly obvious that the majority of Americans are the racists. I will not generalize by saying that ALL Americans are, but most of them. The majority are too bigoted to even stop and think that they have a racially discriminating mindset.
    How anybody can see this ad as racist is beyond me. My tip for the USA – stop, do a little research, and THEN share your opinions. This is planet Earth, not planet USA. The majority of Americans see people as black, white or Asian first. Here in Australia, we do not see people as a colour, but as a person. America has a guilty conscience due to their past and are trying to enforce their culture and their views on the rest of the world. It is no wonder everybody hates them. Not all Americans of course. I know a couple of nice ones.
    America, NEVER stick your nose in another country’s business if you have NO knowledge on the topic. You will embarrass yourself and the whole world will see you as incredibly stupid… if they didn’t know already.

    PS – I love the West Indian cricket fans. It is so great to see such a passionate crowd bringing joy and a little bit of a friendly rivalry to the game :)

  33. jim's Gravatar Comment by jim on February 5th, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    “Here in Australia, we do not see people as a colour, but as a person.”

    Really? Then why, when I was in Australia where there signs posted practically everywhere with the very, very racist/xenophobic slogan: “STOP the Asian Invasion?”

    Sorry, but there are bigots, racists and dumb asses in every country. Yours is no exception.

  34. Emmanuel's Gravatar Comment by Emmanuel on October 9th, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    The stigma of fried chicken and African-Americans comes from white Americans’ derogatory depiction of it being the main sustinence of poor, ignorant blacks from the southern USA (along with watermelon) throughout history.

    The top 3 ways to thoroughly offend a black person from the USA are: 1)whites calling them the ‘N’ word, 2) a fellow black person calling them an ‘Uncle Tom’ 3) anyone telling them to ‘go eat some chicken and watermelon’.

    KFC stands for ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken’. Kentucky is a state in the southern USA with a well-known racist past. If the ad had continued to run, the ramifications – however innocuous they may be to the W.I. And the AU – could have potentially brought about the collapse of their sales in their home country. Pulling the ad was a smart business move on their part…

  35. Emmanuel's Gravatar Comment by Emmanuel on October 18th, 2010 at 8:13 am

    Here is a sample of how racist Americans use this ‘fried chicken’ stigma against blacks: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_cIW44Bimg1A/S5GAMFHnhiI/AAAAAAAAAsQ/qaPSD4exf7Q/s400/ObamaFriedChicken.jpg

Leave a Reply