It’s common practice for NGOs running social campaigns to flight adverts to gain support for their respective causes. Sometimes these ads go right – like in the case of the Smile Foundation which is a cause that helps fund operations for children with facial abnormalities; and sometimes they go horribly wrong, like the recent advert by NGO Feed A Child, that went online to raise awareness about child hunger.
There are a lot of things wrong with this advert, so let me break it down:
The advert portrays a white woman feeding a black child. Let’s stop right there because this picture already looks and sounds wrong. Think about it.
The child is being portrayed as a pet to this woman. Again we’ll stop right there because that scene already has strong undertones of slavery and de-humanization.
The tagline says “The average domestic dog eats better than millions of children”. In light of the advert, the message they seem to be putting across is that only white people own “domestic” dogs and these “millions of children” are in fact black children.
Now the situation was escalated when Feed A Child Founder and CEO Alza Rautenbach was on eNCA on July 8th to “respond” to claims of the advert being racist.
In the face of the public outcry about the scars of old that the ad obviously scratches at, I was disheartened and somewhat irked at the level of ignorance and nonchalance that Alza showed during the interview. She calmly dismissed South Africa’s historical race issues and the sensitivities that still exist today because of it by saying “from Feed A Child side we don’t look at colour, to us there isn’t a black or a white or an indian.” As a young black South African, I shared the obvious frustration and impatience that the host showed towards this lady.
A few young people in my immediate circle also had some some choice words to say about this issue, 2 friends of mine shared these comment on Facebook:
“So like everyone is so offended about how racist the new feed a child ad is but in all honesty, I find it brilliant… It makes you sit up and notice, it offends and disgusts you making you wonder who would portray a black boy like that? Let’s forget that the boy is black and let us just view him as a child. The ad says that your average domestic pet eats better than most children in the world!! What??! Yes, your dog eats better than more than half the children in the world!!! So instead of using hastags on twitter, be offended enough to go out there and FEED A HUNGRY CHILD!”
– Menzi Nhlabathi
I wish we lived in a society that doesn’t have raging sensitivities about race and identity. But we don’t. We live in South Africa, 2014. Our country’s sensitivities about race are perfectly justified yet also ironically, the best way to respond to and beat our sensitivities about race is to have honest, awkward conversations about it and ourselves – which is what that ad did. The outrage is inevitable, in a country with 50 million people, there’s no doubt we will all have varying views about it – all invariably valid. In this case however, it’s important to look beyond the advert and realize that its a fitting caricature of South African society today and with it comes the opportunity to talk about South Africa’s issues of poverty AND race relations – in 24 carats. The ad is problematic if its meant to ONLY be about poverty. Its successful however, if it also irks us into thinking about the true face of our society. The outrage is fine, let’s let that play out. This way, we are a society learning more about itself. I don’t think Ogilvy should’ve withdrawn the advert or apologized for it – the ad is in itself a result of the shocking, ugly realities of our society – THAT’S what should be the focus.
– Lee Molefi
The one thing I find the most disappointing about this advert is Feed A Child and Oglivy’s complete disregard for the racial sensitivities that are still embedded in us. They have subsequently taken the advert off Youtube and released an “officially apology” in the wake of the public outcry.
This was just my two cents worth, it’s up to you to draw your own conclusion. I, like the most people in the country, am offended by this ad. Don’t believe me? Peep the hastag #FeedaChild on Twitter https://twitter.com/hashtag/FeedAChild?src=tren
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