By Julissa Catalan
South African humanitarian organization Feed a Child has issued a formal apology following backlash against a recent TV commercial.
The ad features a wealthy white woman feeding a young black boy as if he were a dog.
In a series of shots, the young boy reenacts typical dog-like actions. In the opening scene, the boy is laying across the woman’s lap while she pets him and feeds him popcorn. In another, the child is seen bringing the woman the newspaper and being rewarded with a treat. The final scene depicts him kneeling beside her waiting for scraps while she eats at a table.
Watch the commercial below:
Visit the organization’s website and a pop-up window immediately comes up with the headline “Apology for Offence Caused By Our Recent Commercial.”
The “unreserved apology,” which is offered to anyone who may have been hurt or offended by the ad, says, “We acknowledge the fact that the advert could be seen as insensitive or distasteful and we take heed to the fact that many perceived the advert as racist.”
An explanation is also offered: “The core message of the commercial was to draw attention to the extremely important issue of malnutrition and raise awareness of the plight of many children in South Africa who go to bed hungry. The commercial requests assistance to help us as an organization (and many other organizations who do similar work) to address the situation.”
Feed a Child Founder and CEO Alza Rautenbach has since been in damage-control mode. In an interview with South Africa’s eNCA (eNews Channel Africa), Rautenbach said, “We don’t look at color; there isn’t a Black and white. To us, it is a woman and a child.”
She also noted that the ad was conceptualized by the South Africa office of renowned advertising agency Ogilvy & Matherwhich has since also posted an apology on its website, saying the ad was aimed at “drawing attention to the extremely important issue of malnutrition in South Africa.” The apology continued: “We are aware of the negative reaction to the commercial. Since receiving an official complaint from the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa, Feed a Child and Ogilvy & Mather have withdrawn the commercial. It was not our intention to offend in anyway, and therefore we unreservedly apologize for any offense caused.”
When asked if she thought the ad was a bad idea, Rautenbach said no, adding that the ad was meant to “get a reaction from the public that there are hungry children out there.”
Watch Rautenbach’s interview with eNCA below:
The commercial has since been replaced on Feed a Child’s YouTube channel with an apology video featuring Rautenbach. The opening text reads, “Is this racist Is this controversial Is this offensive Or is it about time … we all stand together and feed the children of our beautiful country”
Rautenbach then addresses the camera, saying, “Like a child, I don’t see race or politics. The only thing that is important to me is to make a difference in a child’s life and to make sure that that child is fed on a daily basis.”
Watch the video recorded apology below:
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) of South Africa has since determined that it is satisfied with Feed a Child’s withdrawing the commercial from its YouTube channel (and replacing it with the CEO’s apology video), as well as the published formal apology on its website. Therefore, it will not be pursuing further action.