Blacks slam SA advert typecasting blacks

A new survey by the University of Cape Town’s Unilever Institute showed that 49 percent of the 800 people interviewed felt typecast, marginalised and even ridiculed.

“We are talking about a big segment of some two million people with an annual spending power of 130 billion rand (18 billion dollars/14 billion euros),” said Unilever Institute director John Simpson, who coined the term “black diamonds” for the emerging group.

“It includes people who are entering the middle class for the first time to well-established people and some millionaires, who account for less than one percent of this group,” he told AFP.

Simpson said sensitivities ran high even 12 years after the demise of apartheid as race was still a thorny issue.

He said many respondents singled out an advert for a popular brand of tea showing a corpulent black maid sweeping the floor with the camera focusing on her ample posterior.

“Many of those who have just joined the middle class have a mother, or aunt or grandmother who is or was a maid,” Simpson said.

“The feeling was that either the advertisers were poking fun at black physiques or trying to be sexual. Either way, it was seen to be offensive and off the mark.”

Respondents were also riled by advertis casting upper middle class blacks as BMW-driving, Gucci-clad numbers spending all their time and energy in trivial pursuits in flash surroundings.

One respondent said: “South Africa has had a political revolution, an economic revolution but we have yet to see a media revolution.”

“Did the person who created the advertisement really understand and know me?” another added.

The respondents also cited a television commerical showing a traditional doctor covertly using western medicine to cure a client of common cold, Simpson said.

“Nearly 50 percent of the respondents said they had faith in sangomas (traditional medicine men) so you can understand the hurt feelings,” he said.

Marketing guru Chris Moerdyk said the miscasting began when apartheid ended in 1994 with advertisers going over the top and launching Bennetton-style advertisements with all races represented and carefully balanced.”

“It was stereotyping to pander to political correctness and lots of advertisers followed suit,” he said, citing a beer commercial showing whites, blacks and other racial groups standing around a barbeque, which he said was wide off the mark of the target audience.

“There is a lot of stereotyping replacing common good sense,” he told the Business Day newspaper.

The aspirational advertisements also typecast blacks at the upper end of the income scale as the so-called “bumpies,” or black upwardly mobile professionals — besotted with brands, labels and lifestyles, the survey said.

The resentment could also be linked to the fact that many new members of the emerging middle class go on a spending spree on credit and find it difficult to manage their finances, an analyst said, requesting anonymity.

However, one of the most successful mixed-race advertisements which recently caught the imagination of the nation and turned its slogan into national lingo is a commercial plugging a popular brandy.

It shows an Afrikaner farmer rescuing a black family whose car has broken down. He brings them home, gives them a sumptuous dinner and then brings out the brandy.

They have a long but mutually unintelligible conversation in their respective languages but finally toast each other with “met eish,” a clever play on the Afrikaans phrase for “with ice” and a black township exclamation. ‘ AFP.

September 2006
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