Once again, the public broadcaster has decided to exercise its authority and unilaterally ban an advert. Followed quickly by the yellow programming managers at eTV and DSTV. The official line borders on the ridiculous, something about the ad having “violated the Electronics Communications and Transactions Act and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) code”. It begs the question: who actually makes these decisions? What is their agenda, and who do they consult?
As per usual, twitter ran amok with accusatory fingers pointed in all directions: the broadcasters, the spectre of an ANC thought police, Nandos and, of course, South Africa’s favourite pastime, racism. The ever-present elephant in the room (or is it hen) reared its head again for the fifth week in a row, a victory by any measure. Beginning with that week when #Kaffir was a trending topic (thanks Jessica), then going forth into incidents such as the UWC students’ facebook comments, the DA/COSATU clash, De Klerk’s justification of apartheid, and the infamous Speargate, racism – and any of its variations – seems to be the cushion we so comfortably fall back on, collectively, as a nation, whenever we’re confronted with something uncomfortable.
Of course at the same time that the TV broadcasters were busy contemplating banning the ad, service delivery protests were happening in Phillipi, a community wracked by exactly the same currents of xenophobia the Nandos ad attempts to address. Another tell-tale sign that we’re a nation still battling to commit to our own healing process, is that we’re consistently side-tracked into non-debates about rubbish. Not to mention that public opinion is being led by a group of yellow broadcasters busy negotiating their own kind of managing upward sycophantic self-censorship of entirely innocuous messages, like this Nandos ad. It may seem redundant within the context of this article, but these recurring service delivery marches, along with reports of the dire situation of our education system that surfaced (and got swept under the carpet) during the past two weeks of Speargate, should force us to really consider where our priorities as a nation lie.
The advert in and of its own is aesthetically pleasing; the casting, camera angles, editing and grading are top notch. The moral of the story, according to our understanding, is that no one really belongs here or owns this land – well, apart from the Khoisan, the First People. In the end, the ad has a three-pronged effect: it is enjoyable to watch, it raises pertinent moral questions about the concept of ‘belonging’ and ‘ownership’, and, of course, it advertises Nandos’ product.
Indeed, it’s obvious, as with most Nandos ads, the agency’s mandate was to deliver controversy (the 240K Youtube hits can attest to its success). People are talking about it. All the broadcasters managed to achieve by their self-censorship was to ensure that thing went viral online. And while the marketing set on Biz-Community will crow and congratulate the agency, and the brave client, the sycophantic response of the broadcasters is far more concerning. It exemplifies the new climate of fear and insecurity in asserting the fundamental rights enshrined in our constitution, post Speargate. This is hardly a risqué message. Neither is it racist. It is a simple truth wrapped in an ad for peri-peri chicken. The fact that a fast food chicken brand is at the leading edge of political satire in South Africa only serves to compound our concerns.
But save the last nugget of stupidity for SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago who justified the censorship with the statement that the broadcaster was concerned “that the public might interpret it differently”. He’s basically admitting that from now on, they’ll be doing the thinking for us.