ASA kills ‘blackface’ ad
The ad in question referenced a stereotypical ‘African Dictator’ – with an actor in blackface and wearing an Afro – diverting funds into his “expense account.” The ad, which consists of various vignettes, features the same actor also playing a prostitute, a dodgy doctor, porn director and rental agent.
In American history especially, ‘blackface’ was used to create stereotyped caricatures of black people. Today it is still sometimes used as social commentary or satire but it is generally considered politically incorrect.
Lowe + Partners Johannesburg was recently forced to withdraw an ad deemed homophobic by various media outlets, commentators on social media, as well as client Flora (a Unilever product).
The ASA ruling found that “it is worth noting that throughout the commercial, all the “liars” depicted are white, and either male or female. However, the corrupt dictator or politician is depicted as black. The message being relayed is that only black politicians or dictators are corrupt. This is in a way discriminatory as the blackened character is negatively portrayed as a typical black dictator or politician.
“The Directorate also concurs with the second complainant that if the intention had only been to portray a corrupt government official or a corrupt dictator in general, the actor would still have been effective in his natural skin colour as he does in the other examples. A hypothetical reasonable person would realise that the commercial is targeting and discriminating against a certain racial group, and is likely to cause offence to black people.
“In the context of the commercial, and for the reasons set out above, the Directorate is of the opinion that the use of this negative stereotype falls within the ambit of what Clause 1 of Section II seeks to prevent.”
The ASA ruled that the commercial must be withdrawn in its current format with immediate effect and that the commercial may not be used again in its current format in future.