Feathers to fly as agency appeals ban on Chicken Licken advert

19 December 2018 - 15:07 By Nico Gous
A screenshot from Chicken Licken’s commercial for their Big John burger featuring the adventure of John Mjohnana portraying his journey to Holland from 1650-1651.
A screenshot from Chicken Licken’s commercial for their Big John burger featuring the adventure of John Mjohnana portraying his journey to Holland from 1650-1651.
Image: YouTube/Chicken Licken SA

As the conversation over a Chicken Licken commercial heats up, the fast-food outlet confirmed it would appeal against a ruling which deemed the ad too spicy.

Amber Mackeurtan from Joe Public United Communications confirmed on behalf of Chicken Licken that it would appeal the ruling by the ad watchdog the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB).

Sandile Cele had complained about the commercial for the Big John burger. He argued that it "makes a mockery of the struggles of the African people against the colonisation by the Europeans in general, and the persecutions suffered at the hands of the Dutch in particular".

In the advert, a young man called Big Mjohnana leaves his village in 1650 on a boat to satisfy his hunger for adventure.

Mjohnana eventually arrives in Holland in 1651, where he finds Dutchmen at the harbour. He greets them in tsotsitaal. "Hola MaNgamla," [Hello white folk] he says, before telling them he likes the place and thinks it should be called Europe.

The ARB said in their ruling that colonialism in Africa was "traumatic", "cannot be trivialised in any manner" and is "not open for humorous exploitation".

Chicken Licken disagreed.

"The commercial ... shows South Africans that Chicken Licken believes this country has all the potential to conquer the world and rewrite history from an African perspective."

ARB CEO Gail Schimmel confirmed Chicken Licken would appeal the ruling and said it had 10 days to respond but expected it would be considered only after the holidays on January 3.

Cele will then have 10 days to decide if he will turn the other cheek and walk away or respond before the matter is set down for an appeal hearing.

Schimmel confirmed Cele was in fact a a black male after many on social media questioned his race and identity.

"We always keep our complainant’s details anonymous. In this case I am particularly worried about the reaction on social media … I’m quite concerned that people are so angry that somebody has the right to complain."

Schimmel said the merits and not the amount of complaints guide their rulings.

"We basically got a one paragraph response from the advertiser (Chicken Licken)."

Schimmel said Chicken Licken subsequently submitted information on the good response they’ve received to the commercial.

"If they had come to us, and this is probably what will happen on appeal, and said they had done 20 focus groups with diverse groups of people across the country and there was not a single incident of people offended, here is the feedback, here is the study ... maybe that would have swung the ruling the other way because we would have had more information before us."

The ARB ruled that the commercial be pulled from television but it is still circulating on social media.

Schimmel said: "The reality is you’re never going to pull something off social media completely. Once an ad is out there, it’s out there … We live in an era now where an ad will never completely disappear.”


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