KFC’s ogling boys and Ceriz’s whistling kid

Back in January 2020, KFC launched an ad in Australia for the Zinger Popcorn box.

The 15-second ad features a young woman checking her reflection on a parked car’s tinted window, not realizing that there is someone inside the vehicle.

As the window lowers, we see 2 young boys inside the car ogling at the woman, while an older woman (purportedly the boys’ mother) looks on disapprovingly.

If you are wondering how this relates to KFC in any meaningful way, it doesn’t. The young woman uses KFC as a device to divert attention from the awkward situation, and yes, it hardly makes any sense.

KFC apologized and pull out the ad after Collective Shout, an Australian grassroots campaigns movement against the objectification of women and the sexualisation of girls, labelled the ad “a regression to tired and archaic stereotypes where young women are sexually objectified for male pleasure”.

Campaign Asia’s piece on the ad nails it brilliantly and calls KFC’s apology a classic non-apology apology: “We apologise if anyone was offended by our latest commercial. Our intention was not to stereotype women and young boys in a negative light.”

The Campaign Asia piece also explains what exactly is wrong with the ad: “(Campaign Asia) wouldn’t argue that sexual attraction isn’t real, or that it can’t ever be amusing or play a role in advertising. But the problems here are that we’re talking about pre-teens, and that there’s no indication whatsoever in the ad that what they’re doing is wrong.”

While a lot of people also felt that there was nothing wrong with the ad and it was all done in jest (see the comments section in this Mumbrella article), KFC thought otherwise and pulled out the ad.

Cut to June 2021.

Here’s a new ad for Ceriz, a high-fashion accessory brand that signed Sara Ali Khan as their brand ambassador in 2019. The ad is produced by Dharma Productions and directed by Punit Malhotra, director of films like I Hate Luv Storys, Gori Tere Pyaar Mein and Student of the Year 2.

In the ad, Sara, in her night dress, gets locked out of her hotel room. As she goes around, possibly towards the lobby (to get a spare card), she encounters a hotel employee who looks at her disapprovingly and even covers his eyes as he goes away!

In the elevator, a boy younger than the KFC ad’s boys ogles at Sara’s legs and even goes on to whistle, while his mother, dressed like she’s straight out of 1900s England, looks on in disdain.

Just like the KFC ad, this Ceriz ad too ends in an absurd way where a Ceriz handbag makes the dress Sara’s wearing acceptable!

KFC, in Australia, removed their ad after they came across criticism. There is criticism about the Ceriz ad too, but not in any structured form like the one from Collective Shout.

There are sporadic comments in YouTube.

There is a LinkedIn post that criticizes the ad for the sexism.

The post has quite a few comments that agree with the point of view and at least one counter-point that takes the “Let’s not get our knickers in a knot” argument.

I’m reasonably sure there would be enough people who may not find anything inappropriate in this ad too, just like the KFC ad. I’m also sure that Ceriz or Dharma may not see the limited criticism (above) in the same vein as what KFC faced in Australia.

I believe Campaign Asia’s explanation of what was wrong in the KFC ad fits the Ceriz ad too.

KFC did the right thing, despite the non-apology apology, eventually. I sincerely hope Ceriz takes note of whatever criticism the ad has encountered so far and deliberates on it, along with their agency, Dharma Productions.

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