Once again, the world wide web causes a local ad to be misinterpreted abroad. Americans who saw the KFC Cricket Survival guide ad found it racist, as it depicts "African Americans liking fried chicken" Come again? The ad, which in Australia was titled "How to Silence a Noisy Crowd", depicts an Australia fan who has ended up in the seating area of the West Indies fans. "Need a tip when you're stuck in an awkward situation?" he asks the camera. He then serves a bucket of chicken to everyone around him and any opposing team friction is defused as all cricket fans like food. It is but one handy tip in the KFC Cricket Survival guide campaign.
KFC Australia has acknowledged that the ad could be perceived as racist. It said the ad had been "misinterpreted by a segment of people in the US" in a statement released this morning. "It is a light-hearted reference to the West Indian cricket team," KFC 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. "We unequivocally condemn discrimination of any type and have a proud history as one of the world's leading employers for diversity."
For all you Aussies, Brits, Dutch, French, Japanese, Swedes, Germans and so on that read Adland - what you might not know is that there is a US stereotype that says African Americans like fried chicken. And watermelon. (Because who doesn't like fried chicken and watermelon?) Thus, serving fried chicken to black people wasn't interpreted as someone befriending the opposite team, instead as someone who played up on a stereotype. This stereotype is all the way from the civil war as fried chicken, watermelon and chitterlings was slave food and has since suffered strong association to African American stereotypes and blackface minstrelsy. The chicken insult runs deep in US history. So, did the Australian KFC intend to be racist? Probably not, I see opposing teams in the ad, and I don't think they intended it to be read the way it was. However, Australia may need to get out more, they thought the blackface Jackson 5 skit which offended Harry Connick Jr to the core was all harmless fun too. This, the Absolute Mexico ad, the UK Snickers Mr T and Heinz kiss ads, the WWF 911 ad and countless other examples teach us that if your ad ever reaches the web, it better not offend the Americans.