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Getting a wooden head in advertising

ZingoloEarlier this month we argued that critics of Cadbury’s fairtrade chocolate campaign were going overboard by suggesting it was racist.

By Lester Holloway

It simply didn’t seem to be “laden with stereotypes” as some people claimed. Now, as The Guardian reports today, the chocolate producer has been cleared of racism by the Advertising Standards Agency.

The ASA received 29 complaints over the latest campaign, as opposed to the 500 plus that protested about Cadbury’s Trident chewing gum adverts in 2007, which were rightly deemed to be deeply offensive.

You can watch the latest advert and judge for yourself here.

I believe the ASA reached a common sense judgement, for two important reasons.


Trident gum ad

First, it’s worth highlighting the differences between the two Cadbury’s campaigns.

The Trident ad appeared to rely on a manic Caribbean man entertaining the general population with foolish behaviour. It was embarrassing and degrading, not least because past generations – going back to the days of enslavement – were forced to play the fool in order to get by in an oppressive and racist environment.

Although the fairtrade chocolate ad features villagers in Ghana spontaneously dancing when a large floating head appears, the dancing is hardly more stereotypical than any televised dancing scene.

In fact, it was probably a lot less stereotypical than a great deal of music videos played constantly on any given day.

The fairtrade ad was made jointly with Ghanaian professionals, and was advertising a product that benefited that country. The same cannot be said for the Trident ad, which was made without input from people who understood the Caribbean culture.

And second, the fact is there are plenty of far worse examples of unfair and stereotypical portrayal of African, Caribbean and Asian people across the media than is the case with the fairtrade chocolate advert.

We need to protest loudly and strongly where this occurs – for example in video games that represents Africans as zombies – and we must pick our battles carefully.

Reaction on Facebook appears to back up the point that people simply did not feel strongly about the latest Cadbury’s campaign.

Responding to the question of whether it was racist, Listra Dawn Gilzene responded: “I don’t think so…..not on the face of it. Difficult to prove in any case.

“I do question the religious connotation at the end though and why Cadbury saw fit to make a plot centred around this issue. Would the same thing be acceptable on British TV… I don’t think so LOL.”


2 Responses

  1. This advert has done more for Ghanaian tourism than the actual Ghanaian government has. The advert demonstrates that there is more to Africa than just war and poverty! It shows Ghanaians in a positive light i.e the people are portrayed as healthy, agile and most importantly happy! Furthermore, Cadbury’s uses a Ghanaian soundtrack to their advert (Tiny is a big music artist in Ghana).

    But most importantly the advert is promoting fair trade, which is an issue that seems to be ignored by the G20 countries. Good for Cadbury’s for highlighting this issue.

    We shouldn’t be over sensitive about everything we see. This is what’s holding the black community back!!!

  2. I must admit when I first saw this a month or two back I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but repeat viewing led me to think much like James above. I don’t think this is an insult to African/Ghanaian people, and agree that in fact it may actually dispell some myths about Africa.

    Much praise to Cadbury for that and the fairtrade now being done on their flagship confectionery. My hope is if they are bought out this survives…

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