Two TV ads and a VOD ad for KFC:
a. The TV ad featured a song about making peace with those around you at Christmas time and featured various scenes such as two women fighting over a toy in a shop and a group of children who broke a window during a snowball fight. One of the scenes featured a group of carol singers outside an old man's house whilst the song lyrics stated "We showed up at your house again singing all our stupid songs" and the reply "Normally I'd hose you down, but now it just seems wrong".
b. A shorter version of the TV ad featured the same part of the song and lyrics.
c. The VOD version of the ad was the same as ad (b).
Thirty complainants challenged whether the lyrics "all our stupid songs" in ads (a), (b) and (c) were likely to cause serious and widespread offence because they mocked an element of Christian worship.
Kentucky Fried Chicken (Great Britain) Ltd t/a KFC believed it was a tongue-in-cheek ad which took a humorous look at the commercialised hype around Christmas. They said the ad typified the perspective of a very stereotypical grumpy old man, based on Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge, who was usually irritated by everything about Christmas, particularly Christmas songs. They said that the ad showed that this year he had seen the error of his ways and that the lyrics sung were vocalising the mind-set of the Ebenezer Scrooge character, demonstrating how he normally saw the world.
They said it was not their intention to mock any faith or religion and did not seek to offend anyone. They said the ad did not feature any religious artefacts of any faith and did not denigrate religion or the beliefs of others. They said the ad was simply about putting aside petty arguments and building bridges.
Clearcast said it considered the possibility that Christians may have been offended by the ad when they first read the pre-production script, but took the view that because the context was light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek and because the narrative of the ad was one of unity and harmony, it was unlikely that any offence taken from the ad would be serious or widespread amongst viewers. They believed the storyline about the Carol singers was subtle and would not be seen as denigrating Christianity or as an attack on the Christian faith.
In relation to VOD ad (c) Channel 4 said as with all TV ads, the KFC ad was pre-cleared by Clearcast and that the ad in question was no exception and received full clearance with an ex-kids and HFSS (high in fat, salt and sugar) restriction which had been adhered to.
The ASA noted the storyline about the Carol singers featured them cheerfully singing "We showed up at your house again singing all our stupid songs" and considered that viewers would understand this to be an ironic reference to the old man's normal reaction when he heard Carol singers at his door.
We considered that whilst some viewers may have found the lyrics in reference to the Carols to be flippant and at the expense of Carol singers, we noted the ad made clear that the Carol singers were outside someone's house and were not in a Church or any other place of worship and that they were therefore not representative of Christian singing or the Christian faith more generally. We considered that viewers would understand that in this context, the Carol singers featured in the ad were representative of Carol singing in general (which included faith based songs and non-faith based songs) which are part of British Christmas tradition and which are sung by both Christians and non-Christians alike. Whilst we understood that some people of the Christian faith felt that the song lyric in the ad ridiculed their faith, we considered that most viewers would not interpret the lyrics as mocking Christianity (in total or in part) and concluded that the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
We investigated TV ads (a) and (b) under BCAP Code rules 4.2 4.2 Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards. (Harm and offence) and 15.10 15.10 Advertisements must not denigrate the beliefs of others. (Faith, religion and equivalent systems of belief), but did not find them in breach.
We investigated VOD ad (c) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rule
Marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. Compliance will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards.
Marketing communications may be distasteful without necessarily breaching this rule. Marketers are urged to consider public sensitivities before using potentially offensive material.
The fact that a product is offensive to some people is not grounds for finding a marketing communication in breach of the Code. (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.