An advert aimed at raising awareness about starving children in South Africa has sparked a racial storm.
Advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather Cape Town has apologised for the advert now being investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority of SA.
The Feed a Child SA advert, which was quickly removed from YouTube, shows a black child pretending to be a dog while being fed by a white woman, sitting pretty in bed. The tag line at the end is "The average domestic dog eats better than millions of children".
The ad elicited strong responses on Twitter and other media, with people labelling it "hugely racist" and "in such poor taste".
The ASA manager for dispute resolution, Leon Grobler, said it had received 12 complaints about the ad, and "predominantly, the issue seems to be based on offence along racial lines, and allegations of discrimination".
(Image extracted from YouTube)
Ogilvy said yesterday it was aware of the negative reaction to the ad: "The Feed a Child commercial was created ... with the aim of drawing attention to the extremely important issue of malnutrition in South Africa ...
"It was not our intention to offend in any way and therefore we unreservedly apologise for any offence caused," the agency said.
Feed a Child fights back
But Feed a Child has reloaded the advert - with changes. Now it asks: "Is this racist? Is this controversial? Is this offensive? Or is it about time we all stand together and feed the children of our beautiful country?"
The organisation's founder and spokesman, Alza Rautenbach, now appears, asking: "What if this advert changed a child's life? What if this advert changed 3.5million children's lives? What if this was your child going to bed hungry tonight, and this advert can change that? What if you can be part of the change in South Africa?"
She continues: "I have a deeprooted passion for all children of South Africa. Like a child, I don't see colour, like a child I don't see race or politics. The only thing that is important to me is to make a difference in a child's life and to make sure that a child is fed on a daily basis."
Rautenbach told The Times that it was "unfortunate" that the ad had turned into "a racial issue".
The advert was reloaded in response to public questions on why it had been removed, she said.
The spokesman for the SA Human Rights Commission, Isaac Mangena, said the matter did not fall within the jurisdiction of the commission and would be best dealt with by the ASA.
The Times understands that the advert was scheduled to run until Monday - before the ASA stepped in, sending Feed a Child a letter of complaint and giving it until Friday to respond.
The advert seems to have divided opinions on its objective, too. Some of the reactions on Twitter in the past two days include:
@MrSkota: "Feed A Child SA does not respect us. NOT at all ... Oh but what Feed A Child SA was trying to say was that some white people do treat their dogs better than their workers. I'm out."
@Simply_Dineo: "I'm not understanding the uproar in that Feed A Child ad ... it was pointing out the injustice of starving children ... What am I missing?"
@AlexanderHampel: "Definitely the wrong way to get a message across. Who approves these ads? Hugely racist. What do you think? feed a child #feedachild."
@Melfunktion: "I'm not surprised by that Feed A Child ad where the rich white woman feeds the black kid like a dog. Outraged, but not surprised ... "
@MsLeloB: "People Outraged about the #FeedAChild ad as expected but is it not reality? Use that energy to feed a child not lodge complaints."
@CurateZAR: "That advert was in such poor taste. Don't think there's a way to go around it. What were [they] trying to achieve? Just wow. #FeedAChild."
@thejigg: "I really want to see this Feed a Child advert. And I wonder, if they are defending it, then why pull it off YouTube???"
Rautenbach explained: "The child was a character that the agency used. It wasn't chosen for any specific reason - and yes, the idea was to use multiracial people, just as our country is. It doesn't help to have an advert that is not representative.
"I think people would have acted the same if it was, for instance, an Indian child and a white woman. People would have [still] made it racial, unfortunately."
Two years ago the ASA received complaints about a print (prior to that, it was a billboard) advert for the NGO Jam SA that featured a little black girl dressed in a nurse's uniform, wearing heels and a stethoscope around her neck, and hiking up her dress. The wording read "Hungry kids don't play nice" and at the bottom of the ad it read: "Every day in SA children are forced to resort to prostitution in order to feed themselves."
A complainant said the advert was harmful to children and promoted paedophilia. The ASA ordered that it be withdrawn.
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Yes there might be differing opinions on the advert but the stronger opinion seems to be against it and so am I. We unfortunately do have a history of apartheid and racial segregration and should consider this past when creating distasteful adverts such as these. It should not be about the fact that some cannot udnerstand what the problem is, it is about the ones that feel some sort of hurt when viewing it!
People are very quick to jump at anything partaining , racial , these people who are offended ask them , if they ever feed a child... look in their donation , do they realy or is this just to stop what , the person putting the add is trying to accomplish, like it or not , too many children do go hungry , wether white or black ... stop complaining and always raise issues that actualy are not going to be of the interest of what you fighting ..but shame or educate the person by donating as much as possible , then tomorrow , no one is going will say a black kid is hungry anymore , do something to remove that image by removing the oroblem not raise the time old issue that;s not going to feed the child... FEED THE CHILD & REMOVE THE STIGMA...Don't just complain , then leave the child hungry anyway....remove it by iradicating the problem , some people will still remain ignorant whether I like it or not....
As creatives, we strive to create campaigns with an impact. As advertisers, we have a responsibility to be aware of the social and emotional undertones attached to our content. Perhaps this campaign needed a little external feedback before it went live?
If you want to see controversy, remake the ad and change the race of the characters...Remember the SABC campaign "Roles Reversal"?... Featuring a white protagonist from a Soweto informal settlement going by his usual day activities including looking for a job, driving through a suburb in a taxi and seeing rich black kids chauffeured to school with a white maid running after the car etc? Of course it had to be removed. This is from Ogilvy CT, Cape Town is another country not part of the bigger picture, I don't expect anything different. If its not 'Castle Lager' like ads (four characters - white, black, indian and coloured) pretending to be real friends, its this kind of ads. Last Friday Mail & Guardian had to apologise for allowing an ad that compared pigs in sow crates and a pic from concentration camps...this raffled the feathers and it was DEALT with IMMEDIATELY. Hear ppl are justifying crap. Remake the ad and lets see. As for Feed A Child charity, you are not getting my donation. There are plenty children charity organizations I donate to including Dstv's initiative (irony the Dstv's Charity ads are done by Ogilvy JHB if not mistaken, and this crap is from Ogilvy CT). Like I said, Cape Town is another country.
the truth is always pretty. I thing the agency applied racial facts in which the public interpreted as racial stereotype, the tagline still remains some dogs eat better than most kids in our country and instead of using such information as a weapon of social good, we turn an burn the providers of that info... I guess ignorance is really bliss
Just looking at the picture made me quiver, however said, there is a strong message coming through which is of importance. White people do spend a lot of money on their pets and they should perhaps consider feed a hungry child when purchasing foodstuff ( and accessories/toys) for their pets.Yes, I do love animals, but would rather think of the child with no clothes, no shoes, no food, nowhere to sleep and cannot fend for themselves. One can of dog food can buy a bread for 2 hungry children.
Perhaps put on a series of adverts to appease everyone. One with a black male hand feeding and the line "Some people spend more on 1 pair of shoes than it costs to feed a child for a month/ year" One with an Indian hand feeding and the line "Some people spend more on a wedding than it costs to feed an orphanage for a year" One with a colored hand feeding and the line " Some people spend more mag wheels for their cars than it costs to feed a child for year"
That way we can racially stereotype everyone and offend everyone all at once. The message will probably be lost but at least we are back on an even keel and all equally offended at the racism and not the trivial issue of starving children.