Ad Standards hurts women and boys by allowing KFC’s ad to remain on air

Ad Standards has failed the industry, women and the wider TV-viewing audience in its ruling that KFC's ad can remain on the air. The watchdog, and KFC, need to do better, argues Chris Taylor.

KFC is eroding behavioural expectations and undermining what it means to be an active member of a decent, civilised society, and this is the hill I will die on.

So far, its ‘Did someone say KFC?’ campaign’s catchphrase has been a get-out-of-jail card for parents whose kid has walked in on them ‘naked wrestling’ and, more recently, starring a pouty, buxom ‘girl on her way to a music festival’ who ‘adjusts her outfit’ to a car containing ‘a mother and two boys in soccer gear’.

The latter vanilla ‘descriptions’ come from the advertiser themselves and are featured in the 11-page Case Report recently handed down by the Ad Standards Community Panel. However, those same things are described by members of the viewing public as “breasts being shaken and boys ogling her” and “depicts a hooker trying to lure…a mum with kids”.

In the face of what was clearly a significant public outcry over its summer zinger ad – for which KFC duly “apologised to anyone who was offended” – the fast food giant hasn’t just played a straight bat, they’ve denied the very existence of all bat-related sport.

Among its full expunction of all complaints against one of Australia’s most prolific advertisers, the Panel dismissed over 13 separate arguments against inappropriate gender stereotypes – including ‘that the advertisement portrayed young boys leering at women’ and that it ‘sexualises and objectifies women’.

The Panel ruled that since it didn’t discriminate against or vilify anyone that it was all tickety-boo.

Can’t be bothered reading the whole thing? Here are the highlights:

“The Panel considered that the female in the advertisement is clothed in a manner consistent with attending a music festival.”

Sure. Cool. Absolutely she is. However, this isn’t explained before, after or at any time during the ad (or at least the 15-second version of it that was the only one I saw on TV), so isn’t that kind of irrelevant? Or can we insert a backstory as a defence now? If so, can we get a back story for the mum and two kids, please? I need some more context if I’m to fully immerse myself in this.

“The Panel considered the boys in the advertisement were shown reacting to the situation in a natural way, and that they do not make any lewd remarks towards the woman, or give any indication that they were objectifying the woman.”

Because, of course, according to the advertiser, all of the reactions of the occupants in the car are of shock.

Nothing to see here…move on. It’s just an embarrassing, but not humiliating, moment. It’s nuanced. You probably don’t get it.

Then they double down…

“The Panel considered that the boys in the advertisement were depicted reacting naturally to the situation, and were not targeted or depicted as sexual objects of sexual appeal.”

Yeah, I’m going to leave it to you to decide whether the kid at the front is leering or not, but the kid in the back looks shocked, but (presumably) only because the mum (presumption) who must be a stickler for the wearing of seat belts (actively shown) hasn’t told him to get back in his seat and put his belt on (presumably).

Mind you, while we’re at it, you can also decide whether the mum looks like she’s disgusted, angry, or ‘shocked’.

“The boys in the car are clearly shocked but do not make any lewd advances or comments that are offensive or are considered to be objectifying the festival goer.”

Uh huh. Sure.

In handing down their 11 pages of legal parkour, the Ad Standards Community Panel has failed us significantly.

In navigating the guidelines for the chicken giant, they have failed the pub test, the sniff test and any other measure lay people use to call bullshit on bullshit.

But is it that harmful? Is it that bad? Maybe. Maybe not. But it’s certainly a lot closer to what those complaining about it think it is than what those defending it intended it to be.

Ad Standards needs to be better than this.

We need to be better than this.

There comes a point when you can no longer say ‘bucket’.

This is my opinion and I apologise to anyone who is offended by it.

Chris Taylor, creative director, husband, father of three girls, lover and appreciator of creativity.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.