Sibongile Mafu

Cape Town Fish Market causes a stink

2013-09-05 08:06

Sibongile Mafu

Cape Town Fish Market along with the advertising company Lowe, Cape Town have done a pretty good job of being offensive, apologising offensively for being offensive and taking offence at our offence. A pretty sad cycle of events.

Several months ago, Cape Town Fish Market had people fuming at a television advertisement that that depicted blackface. In the ad, they push the message that their fish is fresh and not frozen and go about driving that message in a peculiar way.

The advert itself begins with a white man saying he wants to teach people about the restaurant's fish, which is fresher than the fish of its competitors. Many of who mislead the public into thinking their fish is fresh. They go through various scenarios of people misleading others with the "kicker" being the corrupt blackface dictator. The black politician (a white man with his face painted black) with a thick African accent is on the phone saying "You just need to put that in the 'expense account'", with the last two words in inverted commas.

Two viewers complained to the Advertising Standards Authority because it implied that black politicians are corrupt, and of all the characters featured in the ad, the only "black" one had his face painted.

ASA ordered the Cape Town Fish Market to remove the advert as it implied that black politicians are liars.

Prior to the ASA ruling the Cape Town Fish Market, following the rumblings of complaints from people and released a video "apologising" (not air quotes) for causing offence. In it they sarcastically and with alleged humour say sorry to but really not apologising at all as their sarcastic overuse of air quotes implies. There's a bit of sexism thrown in there for good measure.

Now, there are countless other adverts out there like this. Some are taken off air, and some continue to be broadcast. No one really learns anything or recognises why it is wrong. Cape Town Fish Market and Lowe and Lowe and Partners, Cape Town will probably continue churning out work like this, patting themselves on the back and wondering how many Loeries it will win.

Anyone who complains or takes offence will be labelled as overreacting or "not able to take a “joke". When did pushing the boundaries and challenging thinking mean racism in advertising? I may just be a regular consumer of it, but it seems to be the formula. And agencies are lauded and applauded for poor ads that push the boundaries in Lowe blows. They'll claim to be pushing out thought-provoking work when you're really just left scratching your head, asking why?

The Managing Director of Lowe and Partners, Cape Town, Aiden Connolly (who describes himself as an Irish Ad Man in Africa and Straight talker) took to Twitter last night to take offence at our offence.


And my favourite, add a silent sob effect,

Of course the problem is not them creating this advert, it is those speaking out about being offended? And his not seeing why people are angry is probably what makes it even more frustrating. An ASA ruling does not fix mindsets unfortunately. And the defensive "poor me" reaction is evidence of close to zero lessons being learnt, and a complete disregard of the very many offensive things about that advert.

He ended off with this gem…

Lots of "mistakes", it seems. Their colleagues in Johannesburg mistakenly made THAT Flora ad.

- Sibongile is a videographer, blogger and social media enthusiast who would be nothing without her thumbs. Follow her on Twitter: @SboshMafu.

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