Misinterpretation or Culturally Insensitive

Most people can name an advertisement or two that has caused controversy in the United States. Most recently, Go Daddy had to pull their Superbowl advertising because of the controversy in created.

Controversial ads don’t just exist in America. In Australia, KFC is currently experiencing backlash from ad they released as part of their “KFC cricket survival guide” series. In the advertisement, a white male is surrounded by spirited Caribbean fans and he offers them fried chicken.



Even though this was an Australian advertisement, it was widely criticized by people in the United States. According to the Guardian, some Americans believe that the ad is racist because it is a reminder of the old and outdated negative connotation that African Americans love fried chicken.

This ad raises an important issue about being culturally insensitive across borders. The target audience for this ad was Australians who love Cricket, yet many Americans took offense to it. In this global world that we live in, advertisers can no longer assume that only their desired target audience will see the advertisement.

Geert Hofstede concluded that there are four crucial ways to compare cultures.  One the ways is known as power distance, which is defined as “the extent to which the less powerful members of society accept that power is distributed unequally.” America has a small distance, which means that we believe in equal rights and “liberty and justice for all.”  Americans easily took offense to this ad because of the long and unsettling history of our past how we now see ourselves as a low power distance society. KFC is an American based company, and they should have been more culturally aware of the various dimensions that make up a variety of diverse cultures.

KFC claims that this ad has been “misinterpreted” by people in the U.S. What’s important is that in our technology-driven world, advertisements can transcend borders and be misinterpreted in other cultures. With a global company, such as KFC, it’s important to recognize the connotations of images and content used in any advertisement. They need to be aware of the various dimensions that make up different cultures so that their advertisements are not taken offensively.

Do you think it is just a misinterpretation or is it a culturally insensitive ad?

-Anna Joy Zima, Kaitlin Russell, Hannah Rodgers


One thought on “Misinterpretation or Culturally Insensitive

  1. This is one of the better posts I’ve read on this blog, so congrats on that. You bring up an interesting point. I would say the culturally insensitivity (or whatever you want to call it) certainly isn’t limited to advertising. With the current controversy surrounding Giuliana Rancic, the Krispy Kreme UK ad (http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/9eb6630d-99d5-4ff1-9268-202a9f326e89.aspx?utm_content=buffer42986&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer) to the Wright State University’s offensive Black History Month menu (http://www.eater.com/2015/2/23/8091427/ohio-college-apologizes-for-offensive-black-history-month-menu), I think the bigger issue is what kind of dialogue is (or is not) clearly happening on a managerial level before these decisions are made. Better research and awareness that the world is connected more than ever before (regardless of an intended audience) is needed to prevent situations like these from happening, intended or not.

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