Chicken Licken has been ordered to withdraw its “Big John” television advertisement immediately because it “trivialises an issue that is triggering an upsetting for many South African people” – colonisation.
The ad amounts to offensive advertising, the Advertising Regulatory Board (a replacement for the defunct Advertising Standards Authority) said in a ruling, and so is unsuitable for South African audiences.
“The fact that the commercial is far-fetched and over the top does not nullify the potential offence,” the ARB said.
The ad portrays the travels of a young black South African, John Mjohnana, or Big John, when he sets off to explore the world in 1650. Along the way he overcomes – with remarkable aplomb – all manner of threats from nature, before arriving on a new shore and naming his find “Europe”.
The ad shows this story being related by a Chicken Licken customer.
The ARB found in favour of a complainant who said the ad makes a mockery of the struggle against colonialism.
The ARB said it is clear that scenes such as Big John playing fetch with a Jaguar is not real, and “that turning the usual colonisation story around might be perceived as having a certain element of humour”.
But it was apparently not amused.
“Atrocities suffered by Africans under colonisation are well documented and the legacy thereof continues to exist to date. This experience can never be rewritten differently and cannot be trivialised in any manner,” the body said in its ruling.
It rejected Chicken Licken’s argument that the ad was premised on patriotism, and shows that South Africans can conquer the world.
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