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Ogilvy apologises for, withdraws controversial Feed A Child ad

Date posted: July 8, 2014

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by Herman Manson (@marklivesOgilvy Cape Town, the agency behind the controversial new Feed a Child campaign, has apologised for giving offence and confirmed that the ad has, in consultation with its client, been withdrawn. The ad showed a wealthy white woman treating a black child like a pet and feeding him bits of food off her plate. In one scene the boy licks her fingers clean. ‘The average feed a childdomestic dog eats better than millions of children,” the ad concludes. It then urges viewers to make a donation to NGO Feed a Child.

Writing on the Daily Maverick journalist Richard Poplak argues that you (or in this case Feed a Child) don’t offer dignity by negating dignity. “The black boy/dog is played by a real child, and although he is acting out a role and (presumably) being paid for it, the set-up feels remarkably like exploitation,” writes Poplak. “All of the power lies in the hands of Feed A Child; the boy’s debasement is the point of the commercial. When we use black children as fodder—as mineworkers or Nike shoemakers or to sell “sustainable solutions” to people with credit cards—the ethical lines fray.”

Luca Gallarelli, Managing Director at Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town, says that he is “disappointing that the message has become completely overshadowed by the controversy” as the commercial was “developed with the aim of drawing attention to the important issue of malnutrition in South Africa.”

Gallarelli confirmed that the ad is being investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa after an official complaint was filed and as a result, and in consultation with Feed a Child, the agency took the decision to stop flighting the commercial.

“While clearly designed to have the viewer sit up and take notice, it was never anyone’s intention to cause offence, but rather raise awareness for what is a massive societal issue in SA,” says Gallarelli. “We do however as Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town apologize to those who found the execution distasteful.”

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The ad can still be viewed on YouTube (but might not be there for long)

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