Standard Bank did not create false impression of black fathers, ad regulator rules

Business Insider SA

  • An advert showing a black girl child jumping over her father’s legs as she fantasises about being an astronaut does not show black fathers as blockers of black girls’ dreams - ad watchdog.
  • The ARB said that children jumping over their parents’ legs in households is common.
  • The ARB said that the action is not commonly done to hinder children from reaching their dreams.
  • The advert’s messaging was influential because it showed a black girl as an astronaut- many viewers may have thought it was a man, the ARB said.
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A Standard Bank ad did not depict black men negatively or suggest that they are not supportive of their children’s dreams, South Africa’s Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) has said in its latest ruling.

In the lender’s advert, an astronaut is seen in a living room where a black family, made up of a mother, father, and daughter, is watching television. The astronaut is, in fact, the daughter, seemingly fantasising about her dreams of becoming an astronaut. She makes her way to the kitchen as the mother looks up to the astronaut gleefully while the father puts his feet on a coffee table, which she jumps over.

The point of contention in the advert was the father putting up his feet on the coffee table as his child walked past. It was blamed for being discriminatory against black men and promoting a false impression about black men or black fathers. The complaint stated that the ad suggested that black fathers are blockers of black girls’ dreams.

The astronaut dream vanishes when the mother calls out to the daughter, and she snaps out of the fantasy, just as she is about to drink juice straight out of the bottle.

“Weh Thuli, glass asseblief,” the mother exclaims, reprimanding the daughter to use a glass instead.  

On behalf of Standard Bank, Bouwers Inc, argued that the advert was not a depiction of reality but a fantasy world and said there were no depictions of racial references or stereotypes. It said noted that there were no social innuendos employed in the film.

“The hypothetical reasonable person would, in the context of fantasy and humour, not consider the fact that the little girl has to jump over her father’s legs to get to the fridge as serving as any indication that the father is blocking the young girl’s dream,” the company argued.

“To the contrary, the little girl manages to jump over the father’s legs without any problem or apparent impact on her dreams, which is evident from the fact that she reaches the fridge “still as an astronaut”, and also the fact that she is only brought back to reality by the reprimand of her mother when she attempts to drink from the bottle of cold drink in the fridge,” it said.

It said the father’s role was coincidental and that his actions had no impact on the girl reaching her dreams in the fantasy world.

In its ruling, the ARB said the imagery of parents putting their feet up on a table, and children climbing over them, is familiar for most households and that it is not done for the specific reason of impeding their children.

The ARB’s  Directorate was not of the opinion that the ad was an example of stereotyping and discrimination in advertising.

“The Directorate believes that the Standard Bank commercial is not an example of offensive advertising or discrimination and is not in breach of the Code in this respect,” the ARB said.

It said the overall message of the commercial was in empowering and dealt with the stereotype that girl children, and more so, black girl children, have limited career choices, given many viewers are most likely to assume an astronaut is a man before seeing the girl child.

“…The idea that the father’s legs impeding his daughter’s journey being a metaphor for black fathers blocking their daughters’ dreams is not a conclusion that most people would come to,” the ARB said.

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