IN AN about-turn, broadcasters e.tv and DStv have pulled from air the latest advertisement by fast-food chain Nando’s.
The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has refused to air the advertisement altogether, citing “xenophobic undertones”.
The commercial opens with foreign nationals illegally crossing the South African border, followed by a voice-over that says: “You know what’s wrong with South Africa? It’s all you foreigners.”
It then shows foreign nationals including Chinese, Indians and even Afrikaners disappearing in puffs of smoke. Finally, the only person left is a traditional Khoisan man who says he’s not going anywhere.
Nando’s, which is known for its controversial marketing campaigns, said it was shocked at the decision and planned to ask the broadcasters to reconsider. It argued that the advertisement depicted South Africa’s rich ethnic and cultural diversity and was meant to show the absurdity of xenophobia.
The commercial was initially aired both on e.tv and across DStv channels, and is still available on social network websites.
Thabang Ramogase, marketing manager at Nando’s, said it was told on Tuesday that e.tv and DStv had decided to stop flighting the advertisement.
“We think it is short-sighted and we stand by the advertisement. The responses the ad has generated online have been overwhelmingly positive and show that South Africans get the message,” he said.
Monde Twala, head of channel at e.tv, said the broadcaster had decided on Monday night to stop airing the advertisement.
Mr Twala added that e.tv “respects creativity”, saying the channel had previously flighted advertisements that were rejected by other broadcasters.
“In evaluating the advertisement, e.tv came to the conclusion that it trivialized xenophobia, which remains a sensitive and volatile issue in South Africa,” he said.
He said e.tv reserved the right to withdraw a commercial from the channel on grounds of taste or legality, regardless of whether it had been subject to an ASA ruling.
Chris Hitchings, media sales CEO at DStv, said the pay-TV broadcaster was concerned that the advertisement could be understood incorrectly.
“While we understand that the commercial is a parody, we are not convinced that all our viewers will interpret it in the way intended,” he said. “We have a responsibility not to broadcast material that could be deemed offensive to our viewers and we have exercised our rights in this regard.”
The SABC refused to air the advertisement as it believed it would fuel violence against foreign nationals. Spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said it had overstepped the mark.
“The advertisement starts with ‘you foreigners’,” he said. “By the time they get to the diversity message, people could have interpreted it in any which way. We are a public broadcaster and we will not to broadcast it.”
Leon Grobler, dispute resolutions manager at the ASA, said the organization had received a handful of complaints about the advertisement. Its review will take about a month.
Mr Ramogase of Nando’s said the advertisement should be viewed in context. “We wanted to draw attention to the issue of xenophobia and highlight how ridiculous it is in 2012. We feel the issue is being swept under the carpet and that we need to deal with it.”
He added: “It’s ridiculous to draw the line on who should not be here, but if you go back far enough, then who really should be?”
Mr Ramogase said that Nando’s had expected that some people would be offended, but that was not its intention.
“We don’t just do controversy for controversy’s sake,” he said. “It’s always a role for our product and our brand. We are different and controversial but it’s not controversy in a vacuum. We say things that are on people’s minds.”