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Home Rulings KFC / KFC / JACQUI ABRAHAMS / 2018-8183F

KFC / KFC / JACQUI ABRAHAMS / 2018-8183F

Mrs Abrahams lodged a consumer complaint against KFC’s television commercial that aired, inter alia, on DSTV channel 122 (Comedy Central) on 3 August 2018.

The commercial promotes KFC lunchbox meals, and one of the scenes shows a car spinning.

COMPLAINT

In essence the Complainant took issue with the car spinning scene, arguing that it normalises a very dangerous activity in which people have been killed in South Africa.

RELEVANT CLAUSE OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE

In light of the complaint, the Directorate considered Clause 13 of Section II (Safety) as relevant.

RESPONSE

The Respondent denied the Complainant’s allegations, arguing that KFC took great care in ensuring that its advertising promotes and maintains the highest standards in all media in South Africa. It submitted that during the shooting of the scene, it took numerous safety precautionary measures which include the following:
  • Scene was recorded in a closed and controlled facility;
  • During the recording of the scene there was barricading in a form of small jersey shaped barricade;
  • Tyres were used to separate vehicle and people in the scene; and
  • A professional driver was used.
It further explained that the intention of the advertisement was to tap into popular culture and speak to the audience in ways that are relatable. The Respondent also submitted that Car Spinning was recognised in 2014 as a motor sport, and now is accepted by Motor Sport South Africa, World Motor Sports Confederation and the Olympic committee. It submitted that the advertisement has a disclaimer in the scene, which specifically states "professional driver used”. The Respondent denied any intention to encourage irresponsible and illegal behaviour or put any people at risk.     

ASA DIRECTORATE RULING

The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by the parties. 

Clause 13 of Section II states that advertisements "should not without reason, justifiable on educational or social grounds, contain any visual presentation or any description of dangerous practices or of situations which show a disregard for safety”.

In determining whether there is a breach of Clause 13 of Section II, the Directorate must ask the following questions:
  • Is there an unsafe activity depicted or condoned?
  • If so, is it justifiable on social or educational grounds?
The Respondent submitted that the commercial was shot in a controlled environment using professional drivers, and there were barriers used to separate the people on the scene and vehicle. Furthermore, it submitted that the commercial has as declaimer on screen which reads "professional driver used”.

In the matter of  MTN Ayoba / A L Albertyn and Another / 14717 (27 January 2010), the Directorate had to consider a complaint on Clause 13 of Section II of the Code, where the commercial features a car being spun in circles with a man standing on the open engine. The Directorate held "While the respondent confirmed that safety precautions were taken, this is not at all clear in the commercial. It has often been held that to the viewer, perception is reality. In this context, the commercial shows no warning from the performers, no safety gear, and no general safety precautions. Following the reasoning of the rulings cited above, the Directorate is satisfied that the disregard for safety shown in the commercial is not reasonable and justifiable.”

In another matter, Axe / R Benson / 12561 (2 February 2009), the Directorate considered a complaint against a television commercial that featured a young man using the AXE product. As a result he becomes irresistible to the women he passes by. The closing scene of the commercial showed an attractive woman who tried to impress him by spinning her car right next to the men. The Directorate upheld the complaint and ruled that street racing and manoeuvres are becoming increasingly popular in certain areas of South Africa, especially with the youth. Such situations should therefore be considered in the context of the climate for disregard for road safety. Furthermore, the male character’s friends were clearly shown to be impressed by the spinning.

The Respondent’s justification for safety is that the commercial was shot in a controlled environment using a professional driver. While the Directorate accepts that the Respondent’s precautions meant that there was no actual danger, the question before the Directorate is what the reasonable consumer viewing the commercial sees.

The commercial shows the spinning happening in a building facility like a vacant warehouse, and not a car racing arena. The entire set up looks like an amateur event that has been put together by amateurs – and not like a sporting event. The barriers used to separate the spinning car and the people watching do not appear to be substantial, and given the very short duration of the clip, are not immediately obvious to the viewer. The people are in close proximity to the barricades and they are, or do not appear, sufficient to protect the people should the driver lose control of the car. In essence, if a person were to imitate the scene in the commercial, it would not be safe.

In addition, with the possible exception of the fleeting disclaimer, there is nothing in the commercial to communicate that the activity is unsafe. In fact, it is made to look fun, cutting edge and cool.

This satisfies the first leg of the test for Clause 13 of Section II, because clearly a disregard for safety is being shown. 

The nature of the commercial is not one that meets the test for social and educational grounds for showing the scene. It is not used, for example, to educate consumers in how not to drive.

Following the reasoning of the rulings cited above, the Directorate is satisfied that the disregard for safety shown in the commercial is not reasonable and justifiable.

Accordingly the commercial is in contravention of Clause 13 of Section II of the Code.

In light of the above, the Respondent is required to:
  • withdraw the claim in its current format;
  • the process to withdraw the claim must be actioned with immediate effect on receipt of the ruling; 
  • the withdrawal of the claim must be completed within the deadlines stipulated by Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide; and
  • the claim may not be used again in its current format.

The complaint is upheld.  

The Respondent’s attention is also drawn to the provisions of Clause 15.5 of the Procedural Guide, which effectively requires it to withdraw the advertisement in question from any and all media in which it may appear.

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