A TV ad for KFC, seen during March 2021, featured two young black men in a KFC restaurant waiting at the counter for their food order. The voiceover stated, “Get 10 KFC Mini Fillets for £4.99 and feel like a big deal.” When the men collected their food, their legs turned into chicken legs and feathers floated around them, as they strutted and danced to hip hop music on the way to their table, while other customers looked on.
IssueThe complainants, who believed the ad perpetuated negative ethnic stereotypes, challenged whether it was likely to cause serious offence. The complainants believed the ad perpetuated negative ethnic stereotypes, such as that the ad played on the stereotype created in colonial America, as a way of mocking enslaved people of black origin, that all black people loved to eat fried chicken. Some also noted that the ad depicted them in streetwear dancing to a hip hop soundtrack.
Kentucky Fried Chicken (Great Britain) Ltd t/a KFC said the ad was designed to promote their “Big Deal” chicken fillets offer and was intended to capture the ‘winning’ feeling consumers might get when purchasing a special offer or deal. The transformation of the two men into animated chickens, along with the change in lighting and bold music track were intended to express the transformative feeling of saving money and feeling like a “big deal”. They said that while the two young men were the lead actors, people of various ethnicities were featured sitting in the KFC restaurant. Therefore, they did not believe the ad implied people of any particular race were more or less likely to be a KFC guest or to eat the product.
KFC said the two lead actors were brothers and were chosen as a precautionary measure to help reduce the potential for Covid-19 to spread. They said the ad was one of a series of six ads which featured a range of different actors of various ethnicities in the leading roles, including white actors as the lead. Clearcast said that during the initial approval process for the ad, they considered previous KFC campaigns that used a similar creative where the actors’ heads were animated to look like chickens. They said all those previous ads featured a hip-hop inspired soundtrack and young men and women wearing street clothes, doing activities associated with youth culture, such as basketball, BMXing and dancing. They said those ads were instrumental in their decision to clear the ad. They said it was important for an ad to be relevant to the demographic it targeted, and in KFC’s case the key target audience was people in their late teens and twenties, so the music and the actors reflected that and were integral to the success of the ad. Clearcast said the ad showed the men to be empowered and made to feel like a big deal by the food they bought. The other customers, who represented a diverse range of ethnicities and genders, looked at the men with admiration and amazement; they were perceived to be ‘cool’. The overall impression was a positive one in their view.
The ASA noted the ad was intended to promote KFC’s money saving food deals and that their ads often featured young people in a casual setting. However, we understood that there was a historic association between black people and cooking and eating fried chicken; we therefore considered whether the ad reinforced a negative ethnic stereotype. We understood that the ad was one of six which promoted KFC’s “Big Deals” and some featured white actors in the lead roles. We nonetheless considered that some viewers would not have seen the other ads in the campaign and that this ad should be considered in isolation. We noted the ad featured a number of people of different ethnicities also eating in the restaurant. While the black characters were prominent, we did not consider they were depicted in a mocking or derogatory manner.
We considered the ad presented the young men as fun-loving, confident and playful, feeling happy because they got a money-saving deal on their food, which was reflected in their smiling faces, strutting walks and dancing. The animated chicken legs, feathers and music added to the light-hearted feel of the ad. We did not consider the ad suggested that all black people ate fried chicken, or were more likely to do so than any other ethnic group. While we acknowledged that some viewers who saw the ad and were aware of the existence of the historic negative ethnic stereotype might find it distasteful, we considered that the ad was unlikely to be seen as perpetuating that stereotype and we therefore concluded the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rule
Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards.
Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of: age; disability; gender; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. (Harm and offence) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.