Industry watchdog clears KFC ad targeted by Collective Shout

A KFC ad targeted by Collective Shout has been cleared by the ad watchdog.

Collective Shout campaigns against the sexualisation of young girls and women and said the ad relied on the “boys will be boys” trope and perpetuated sexist gender stereotypes.

The ad depicts a young woman adjusting her appearance, including her breasts, relying on her reflection in a car window. She is unaware young boys are ogling her from within the car until they wind down the window.

“Ads like this reinforce the false idea that we can’t expect better from boys. It is another manifestation of the ‘boys will be boys’ trope, hampering our ability to challenge sexist ideas which contribute to harmful behaviour towards women and girls,” Collective Shout spokesperson, Melinda Liszewski, said back in January.

“The research is solid: attitudes shape behaviour. A growing number of reports show how re-enforcing of gender stereotypes – including in advertising – contributes to a lesser view of women, resulting in their mistreatment.”

Complaints to Ad Standards shared similar views, with many stating that the ad is degrading to women and sexualises children. As the ad was frequently broadcast during the cricket Big Bash League coverage, other complaints contended that the content was too sexualised for the family-friendly timeslot.

KFC defended the ad by noting that the woman is not encouraging the young boys to react as she is clearly shown to be completely unaware of their presence inside the car until the window winds down, and her action in adjusting her top is not sexual and a common practice for people to do.

KFC also claimed that whilst the boys were shocked, they “do not make any lewd advances or comments that are offensive or are considered to be objectifying” the woman. Therefore it does not represent the sexualisation of the boys.

It also stated that “KFC does not support nudity nor do they showcase sex or nudity throughout the advert”.

In addition, it said “KFC intentionally treats sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience in all advertisements and marketing communications”, and that “KFC does not encourage lewd and sexual behavior (sic), particularly in relation to children”.

The Ad Standards community panel decision was based on three sections of the code including section 2.1 which covers discrimination and vilification, 2.2 addressing exploitation and degradation, and 2.4 targeting sex, sexualisation and nudity.

It agreed with KFC that the woman did not appear to be aware of the family’s presence in the car, and that she was not deliberately aiming to get the boys’ attention. In turn, the panel ruled that the boys were “depicted reacting naturally to the situation, and were not targeted or depicted as sexual objects of sexual appeal”.

The panel noted that the woman adjusting her top was ‘an awkward device’ and that the focus of the shots of her leaning towards the car window was her face rather than her cleavage, and so she was not being depicted as an object of sexual appeal.

It also noted the placement of the ad during the Big Bash coverage was consistent with its ‘W’ rating awarded by Clear Ads.

As a result of these judgements, the panel dismissed the complaints.

At the time of the Collective Shout announcement, KFC provided a statement to Mumbrella: “We are pleased Ad Standards has ruled that our ad does not breach advertising standards. The ad was part of a campaign that sees the fun in life’s awkward moments and it was not our intent to cause offence to anyone.”


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