Collective Shout's letter to KFC heads
KFC's Zinger Popcorn Box ad, which ran on high rotation during the 7 Network 2019-20 Big Bash League cricket broadcast, was a tribute to age-old sexism. The ad featured a young, female festival-goer who - after leaning forward to adjust her low-cut top in the reflection of a parked car window - realises she's given two young boys inside the car an eyeful of her cleavage.
We called KFC out for its 'regression to tired and archaic stereotypes where young women are sexually objectified for male pleasure; and males are helplessly transfixed when confronted with the opportunity to ogle a woman's body'. Our campaign - kicked off after a supporter alerted us to the ad - made international headlines while the ad itself drew the ire of marketing experts around the globe.
In response to complaints made to Ad Standards (which the Ad Standards Community Panel ultimately dismissed), KFC gave a detailed defense of the ad with reference to the AANA Code of Ethics. For example, regarding complaints about exploitative and degrading treatment of women, KFC said:
The act of the woman adjusting her outfit is a commonplace act that both males and females participate in when preparing to attend social events.
The crux of their defense is that the ad was not degrading to women because men adjust their outfits on the way to festivals too. But does commonplace or the fact that both men and women engage in 'outfit adjustment' negate the sexually objectifying features of the ad: the focus on the woman's body parts and the ogling response scripted for the boys? Complaints about the ad certainly did not speak to the gender breakdown of engagement in 'outfit adjustment'. They were directed at the ad's unfavourable portrayal of women: the crystal-clear promotion of the idea that women exist for the male (age providing no boundaries) gaze.
Regarding the ad's treatment of sex, sexuality and nudity, KFC gave the following defense:
KFC strives to create real situations which audiences can relate to; people wanting to look their best at a music festival and the feeling of embarrassment when caught unaware...the festival goer is not shown as encouraging a reaction from the young boys in the car as she is completely unaware of their presence until the end of the Advert. The only purpose of adjusting her clothing is to get ready for the festival. Her behaviour is in no way sexual, but rather depicts the feeling of embarrassment when unaware of being watched.
While KFC on one hand tells us the ad is not degrading to women because men also adjust their outfits, on the other, they admit that this 'awkward moment' is all about humiliation and embarrassment. AKA: degradation.
If this narrative was simply about portraying an 'awkward moment' - one that is equal between men and women in the commonplace act of outfit adjustment - one that chicken will solve - KFC could just as well have used a man adjusting his outfit with little girls looking on. But there are reasons KFC didn't script a man adjusting his testicles in his pants in the faces of underage girls for this 'awkward moments' ad. Ultimately the ad was about trading off of a woman's body to sell product.
Last month we wrote to the heads of KFC to voice our objections to their use of harmful, sexist tropes in their ads. In our letter we highlighted the global body of research that proves the harms of objectification in media and advertising - the devastating, real-life consequences of which are part of women's and girls' daily lived experiences. We pointed out the incompatibility of promoting harmful sexist stereotypes through their ads with their current efforts to address the customer abuse crisis that plagues the fast food industry. We challenged them to do better by centering respect for women and girls in their future ads.
To date, we've had no reply from KFC.
You can read the full letter here, and use the address details to write your own letter to KFC corporate leaders.
Creative Director Chris Taylor slams Ad Standards in article for MumbrellaRead more
Women working in food services are prone to sexual harassment. The 2018 National Survey on Workplace Sexual Harassment report found that people employed in accommodation and food services - 60 per cent of whom were women - were "overrepresented as victims of workplace sexual harassment”. A 2019 survey of Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association members - a group made up primarily of employees from the retail, fast-food and warehouse sectors - showed that nearly half of women had experienced workplace sexual harassment.
Last week KFC gushed about its partnership with icare for a staff-education program aimed at equipping staff with skills to de-escalate customer abuse and reducing its prevalence. Background data confirms that for workers in the fast-food sector, customer abuse is the norm, and is experienced more widely by female workers than male workers.
We know that abuse is borne out of disrespect, and so it’s reasonable to view customer abuse - abuse that tends to affect women more prevalently than men - as another symptom of societal-level disrespect for women. When other research confirms that gender stereotypes and sexually objectifying representations of women in media and advertising diminish our view of and value for women, we’re hard-pressed to understand why - at the same time it invests in employee empowerment - KFC would use casual sexism to flog chicken.
icare’s pilot program involving KFC reportedly resulted in a 48% reduction in cases of customer abuse. But in the wake of KFC’s cataclysmic advertising fail, do young, female employees in KFC outlets have reason to feel empowered at work? KFC has sent the message to men and boys everywhere that ogling a woman’s breasts - an act of sexual harassment - is just a natural, normal thing to do. The message to women and girls? To borrow a pun from another KFC ad campaign, ‘Bucket. Why not?’ - just go with it. This is the antithesis of the message of respect-based, anti-harassment training programs which instruct victims and onlookers to speak out against harassment.
It is always good to provide workers with skills to manage the spectrum of customer misconduct, but young women should not be expected to absorb the consequences of a nationwide ad campaign where sexual objectification and sexual harassment of young women is the punchline.
How can young women feel respected by their employer when KFC is contributing to the very problems they are trying to solve with a "respect and resilience" program? Will they be safe at work when men like this walk through the door?
If KFC has - as it claims - genuine interest in the well-being of young people and empowering its staff, it will retract the ad and commit to marketing its products without endorsing sexual harassment and perpetuating antiquated sexist narratives that contribute to a culture of disrespect for women.
Content warning - examples of abusive messages included, explicit languageRead more
KFC has issued a non-apology: In a short statement issued on Tuesday, KFC said: “We apologise if anyone was offended by our latest commercial. Our intention was not to stereotype women and young boys in a negative light.”Read more
The 15-second ad promoting the global fast food fried chicken chain opens with a young woman checking her appearance in the reflection of a parked car window, leaning forward as she adjusts her low-cut top. The window rolls down to reveal a very unhappy looking mother and two young boys, who are staring open-mouthed having received an eyeful of the woman's cleavage.Read more
KFC stereotypes women - and young boys - in new TV adRead more
It’s that time of year again. Every year in the lead up to Christmas, we release our annual blacklist of corporate offenders who have objectified women and sexualised girls throughout the year.Read more
It's that time of year again, already! As Christmas approaches, retailers are kicking it up a notch competing for your business, and Collective Shout releases our annual blacklist of corporate offenders who have sexualised girls and objectified women throughout the year. These companies do not respect women, they have not changed their ways, and they don't deserve your money.
You can speak with your wallet and show these companies that sexually exploiting women and girls is bad for business.
Below is our boycott list for 2016:Read more
CLARISSA BYE, Social Affairs Reporter, The Daily Telegraph
CHILDHOOD innocence is being swamped by a tidal wave of pornographic imagery, with NSW’s First Lady Kerryn Baird fearing we have “lost the argument” over sexually explicit material.
Kerryn Baird has a new role as ambassador for Collective Shout, which sticks up for girl’s rights and fights objectification. Picture: Justin Lloyd
The mother of three teenage children, and wife of Premier Mike Baird, said explicit imagery was assailing youngsters everywhere, from shopping centres to music videos and even via their devices.
Mrs Baird has signed on as an ambassador for grassroots girls’ and women’s rights advocacy group Collective Shout to help parents speak up.Read more