A television ad for KFC has been cleared by the regulator following a complaint that it perpetuated negative ethnic stereotypes by featuring two black men ordering fried chicken.
The ad, seen in March, showed the two men waiting at a KFC restaurant counter for their food while a 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.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received three complaints that the ad perpetuated negative ethnic stereotypes, specifically that all black people loved to eat fried chicken.
The complaints also noted that the ad depicted the actors in streetwear dancing to a hip hop soundtrack.
Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) said the ad promoted its “Big Deal” chicken fillets offer, and 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.
KFC said it 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, noting that people of various ethnicities were featured sitting in the restaurant.
The two lead actors were brothers, chosen as a precautionary measure amid Covid-19 social distancing restrictions, and the ad was one of a series of six featuring a range of different actors of various ethnicities in the leading roles, including white actors.
Ad clearance agency Clearcast said it had considered previous KFC campaigns that animated actors’ heads to look like chickens, all of which used a hip hop-inspired soundtrack.
The ASA said it understood that there was a historic association between black people and cooking and eating fried chicken, and it therefore considered whether the ad reinforced a negative ethnic stereotype.
The regulator said: “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.”