Simply Asia had to change a radio ad featuring its Thai chef because South Africans thought it was racist

Business Insider SA
Simply Asia
  • Restaurant group Simply Asia was accused of racist stereotyping for using a "fake Asian accent" in a radio advertisement.
  • The complaints, including one formal one, were bad enough that it updated the ad to make it clear that there was nothing fake about the accent.
  • You can listen to the before and after versions below.

South Africans were so offended by the use of "fake" Thai accent used in a radio advertisement that popular restaurant chain Simply Asia changed the ad – even though there was nothing fake about the accent in the first place.

The Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) on Wednesday published a finding on a complaint it had received about a advertisement for Simply Asia's offering over Songkran, the Thai new year celebration.

The ad uses the restaurant's catchphrase "authentic Thai made simple".

But several listeners thought there was nothing authentic about the voice in the ad, which sounds as if it was recorded in a busy kitchen. One listener demanded that the ARB, which has the power to effectively ban offensive advertisements, should intervene.

In its defence, the ARB said, Simply Thai pointed out that its owner is a Thai national who would not make fun of his own culture. Yet the chain had already created a new version of the radio ad, because of other complaints it had already received.

Here is the version of the ad that offended South Africans:

"You know, Thai people, we happy people," apparently did not provide a sufficient clue that Simply Asia was using one of its own chefs to promote the chain.

The ad even attracted demands that radio stations should refuse to air it because of its racism. 

The ARB described the complaint it received as boiling down to the ad using "a fake Asian accent which is offensive and racist stereotype."

And here is the updated version that made it clearer that an actual Thai chef employed by Simply Asia is the voice in the ad:

The amended advertisement is "unequivocal and addresses the complaint", the ABR said, and what it formally classified as the "undertaking" by the company to update the ad is enough for it to escape sanction.

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