From ad to worse: the retail duds that make SA cringe

22 November 2015 - 02:00 By SUTHENTIRA GOVENDER
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A "humping" dog, a foul-mouthed comedian and "mannequin slaves" all have one thing in common - they are epic fails.

These examples have featured in advertising campaigns that have backfired for using ethnic profiling, being sexually explicit, offensive or downright racist in the eyes of South Africans.

In the most recent furore, Woolworths came under fire after one of its store displays appeared to portray a slavery scene in which mannequins were tied together with ropes.

The retailer apologised for "the distress caused by an incorrectly assembled in-store installation" and removed it.

Branding and advertising expert Andy Rice said this week that advertising houses could guard against offending consumers simply by "understanding people".

"An attribute of a successful agency is a strong understanding of consumers.

"There's no secret, there's no magic, it's just about understanding people, how they respond and what their hot buttons are - and understanding that there is no value in antagonising people."

In August this year, BIC received a tongue-lashing for its Women's Day social media campaign. The stationery producer also apologised after the advertisement, which called for women to "Look like a girl. Act like a lady. Think like a man. Work like a boss", sparked outrage.

Then last month, on the eve of its launch in South Africa, Swedish fashion brand H&M offended locals when it justified using only white models in an advertising campaign.


In response to a query about why it used so few black models, H&M tweeted that it sought to convey a "positive image" - which caused a huge negative reaction for suggesting that black people did not fit that description.

In the latest incident, with the threat of a boycott from black consumers hanging over its head, Woolworths took to social media to explain its "faux pas".


On Monday , Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha from East London posted on the retailer' s Facebook page : "I have a problem with the display of black dolls wearing your clothes with a rope on them in your stores. This depicts slavery and such display of this in your ... shop suggests you promote such barbaric [acts] against humanity. Please remove this rope on these black dolls with immediate effect. This is insulting us as black customers and anyone who is a victim of slavery."

In a statement, Woolworths responded: "The denim department's festive season installation is supposed to hold Christmas baubles suspended off ropes, being supported by the mannequins. One store implemented the installation incorrectly as they have used the incorrect rope without the Christmas baubles."

Woolworths said the offending display had been removed.

The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa, a regulatory body for the industry, said it is often inundated with complaints by irked consumers.

Spokesman Mpumi Mda said this week that advertising houses had to be mindful of the code of advertising practice.

The code is aimed at preventing the unfair manipulation of public opinion and choice, and ensures that advertising is truthful, honest and correct in all respects.

"The industry needs to understand that consumers are becoming more informed and have thus become willing to voice their opinions," said Mda.

The body said mobile network Cell C's recent "humping dog" TV commercial appeared to have ticked off a number of South Africans, who complained that the advertisement portrayed a dog performing a sexual act that was unsuitable for children to see.

The authority received more than 200 complaints about the ad, which attempted to convey the message that consumers had been ripped off by petrol price hikes, rising food costs and e-tolls, but that Cell C would not rip them off.

It rejected the complaints, ruling that the ad used humour to convey the feeling of people being taken advantage of and that children would not necessarily see the link between this and the humping dog.

sub_head_start Five campaigns that caused a stink sub_head_end

• Irish bookmaker Paddy Power's Oscar Pistorius ad campaign, which offered "money back if he walks" for punters betting on the outcome of the murder trial. It read: "It's Oscar time ... money back if he walks."

• Ashley Madison's offensive advert that featured men singing: "I'm looking for someone other than my wife."



• An Indian mattress company used a cartoon of Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai being shot in the head in its "Kurl-On" spring mattress Rejuvenated campaign. She then "bounces back" - the campaign slogan - to receive Pakistan's National Youth Peace Prize.

• Santam Insurance was criticised for its ad that features people from different countries relaying their South African experiences. A scene where one friend tells another "They've got these things; car guards ... watch your car ... " resulted in complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa. The reference to car guards as "things" was deemed disrespectful.

• McDonald's McFeast Spicy burger advert, which features comedian Karou Charou talking in his "thick Indian accent", offended some members of the Indian community, who regarded it as offensive and stereotypical.


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