The 15-second ad, which featured heavily during the Big Bash League, depicts a young woman checking her appearance in the reflection of a parked car window. As she leans forward to adjust her top, the window rolls down to reveal a very unhappy looking mother and her two young boys, who are staring open-mouthed at the woman’s cleavage.
Collective Shout, a grassroots organisation against the objectification of women, quickly issued a statement, condemning the “regression to tired and archaic stereotypes where young women are sexually objectified for male pleasure”.
Collective Shout spokeswoman Melinda Liszewski said the ad also reinforces “the false idea that we can’t expect better from boys”.
“It is another manifestation of the ‘boys will be boys’ trope, hampering our ability to challenge sexist ideas which contribute to harmful behaviour towards women and girls,” Ms Liszewski said.
“The research is solid: attitudes shape behaviour. A growing number of reports show how re-enforcing of gender stereotypes — including in advertising — contributes to a lesser view of women, resulting in their mistreatment.”
Collective Shout also argued that the ad marks a backwards step towards achieving the goals set out in the Australian Government’s National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022.
“Governments are putting millions of dollars into ‘respectful relationships’ programs in schools. At the same time, corporates like KFC — which claims to care about young people — undermine these goals.”
KFC was forced to apologise for “an immature and salacious social media campaign which was removed just one hour after it was launched due to public backlash” in 2016.
That same year, KFC was also called out for showing sexualised content to customers via in-store TVs.
KFC in the firing line
The industry watchdog recently upheld a complaint about another KFC advertisement which was found to have misled viewers into thinking the chain’s $4.95 Fill Up deal was available at night.
The complainants wrote that a woman in a “vulnerable” state due to alcohol consumption could be “forced” into buying an equivalent product at a higher price.
The advertiser responded by explaining that “KFC strive[s] to depict relatable situations that encourage people to release their free inner spirit and be their true selves”.
Most complained about ads in 2019
Last month, outlining its most hated ads for 2019, the advertising industry’s self-governing body, Ad Standards, revealed that sex and nudity, and discrimination or vilification are consistently some of the most complained about issues.
The “winner” of the most complained about advertisement in Australia in 2019 was Libra.
The portrayal of women’s periods clearly hit a nerve with many viewers, who lodged complaints on various grounds including exploitative of degrading content, sex/sexuality/nudity, violence and even discrimination.
Ad Standards, however, found in favour of Libra and dismissed all of the complaints, following Libra’s claims that the ad raised awareness of a subject often deemed taboo in the public arena.