As Pistorius ad gets most complaints ever in Britain, a look at some of Africa's most controversial adverts

An advert making light of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius has drawn the most complaints ever in Britain

AN advertisement making light of the trial of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius received by far the most complaints ever in Britain, the advertising watchdog said on Friday.

The advert for Irish betting company Paddy Power appeared during Pistorius’ trial for murder last year and read “money back if he walks”—a pun on the prospect of his release and the fact he is a double amputee.

The sprinter, 28, was jailed for five years by a Pretoria court in October after being convicted of culpable homicide for the Valentines Day 2013 killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

The advertisement appeared in a British newspaper during the trial in March, promoting Paddy Power’s betting offers on whether Pistorius would be found guilty or not. The advert said the company would refund all those who bet Pistorius would be convicted, were he to be found not guilty.

The advert received 5,525 complaints, by far the highest number of objections ever received for an advertisement in Britain according to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Those who complained accused Paddy Power of making light of a woman’s death and of disability. But while Africa’s advertising industry is still embryonic — under 5% of this year’s projected $600billion global spend according to research firm eMarketer — it has had its fair share of controversial ads.

We take a look at some of the more memorable ones: 

1: South African charity Feed a Child last year ran into trouble over a commercial which was slated for being racist. The ad depicted a white woman treating and feeding a young black boy like a dog. The commercial then switched to a text message reading: “The average domestic dog eats better than millions of children,” before soliciting donations to Feed a Child to tackle what it said was severe malnutrition in the country.

The charity soon apologised, admitting “the fact that the advert could be seen as insensitive or distasteful” and perceived as racist, and pulled the commercial.

2: Kenya’s Mavuno Church is one of the country’s more elitist and youth-friendly churches, with the advantage that it is generally able to take a more liberal approach to matters in what is a religiously conservative country. But even it managed to stir up fervent debate in February 2014 after it put out a poster titled, “Blurred Lines”, with a couple in an intimate situation, inviting teenagers to a month-long sex education programme at the church. 

The church stoutly defended its approach, saying it needed to be bold as teenagers were becoming sexually active without being fully cognisant of the risks.

3: South African fast food chain Nando’s was in 2011 forced to withdraw a TV advert which poked fun at Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe as “the last dictator standing”. 

Nando’s said it decided to act after its staff in Zimbabwe received threats from a youth group loyal to Mugabe.

The video showed a sad Mugabe look-a-like dining alone at a table set for Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Uganda’s Idi Amin and other then-lately departed autocratic rulers. An actor playing Mugabe reminisces about happy times with other autocratic rulers, while the president was also shown in among other scenes playing a water-pistol fight with Col Gaddafi, making sand angels with Saddam Hussein and riding on a tank with Idi Amin.

The firm, which is known for its cheeky ads, has however distanced itself from another advert on social media using the now instantly-recognisable image of Mugabe falling with the strapline, “Falling for our chicken is risky business.”

4: Airtel Rwanda was last year forced to pull down billboards promoting lower call tariffs after it came under fire from Rwandan activists who felt the advertisement was chauvinistic and objectified women.

Critics felt the ad did not also represent culture in Rwanda, a conservative country, while authorities accused the telco of not having the advert vetted prior to putting it up.  Airtel apologised for offending any sensibilities. 

5: American organisation AIDS Healthcare Foundation also ran into trouble in socially-conservative Uganda following a 2013 campaign that advised cheating spouses to use condoms.

The organisation defended the billboards citing the rising infection rates in Uganda, and insisted it was time to face stark realities.

“What we are putting across is that if you must cheat, remember to use a condom in order to protect your partner,” it wrote on its website.

In the face of uproar the message was toned down to  “Don’t get HIV, don’t pass it on” even as authorities took a dim view of the entire campaign.

6: Miffed Tanzanian authorities in 2010 also threw out television advertisements for scented condoms meant to raise awareness about HIV, deeming them too racy for viewing. 

The spicy ads were by the American non-profit-but-business PSI, which was promoting its Salama brand of condoms. Salama is Kiswahili for “safe”. The banned ads can be seen herehere and here.

7: Land Rover, a brand of the British car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover, famous for its famous off-road vehicle, in 2001 had to pull down an advertisement following complaints it was racist and sexist. 

The naughty ad, for the Freelander model, featured a semi-naked Himba woman from Namibia in traditional dress, whose breasts are pulled sideways by the sheer power of a Land Rover roaring past her. 

A contrite Land Rover dropped the advertising firm responsible for the images.

The Himba, nomadic cattle-herders who live close to the Namibian/Angolan border, are regarded as one of the last unspoilt indigenous communities of Africa. They protect their naked bodies with animal fat and ochre.

8: Korean Air in 2012 faced a backlash from Kenyans for terming them “primitive” in an online advertisement launching direct flights to the capital Nairobi.

Part of the advert read: “Fly to Nairobi with Korean Air and enjoy the grand African savanna, the safari tour, and the indigenous people full of primitive energy.”

The airline subsequently apologised and canned the advert.

9: In 2012 an ad campaign for skin-lightening “miracle” cream Khess Petch hit Senegal, promising results in just 15 days. It also had “before” and “after” photos as proof, setting off a huge debate in the west African country.

“Khess Petch” is loosely translated from the local Wolof as “All White” or “All Light”. A counter campaign of “Nuul Kukk” or “Everything black” was quickly launched. The original ads were pulled down. Other ads quickly sprung up in their place.

10: We end with where we started—Oscar Pistorius. Our main picture shows an ad for Nike that was quickly pulled after the athlete was charged following the shooting to death of  Reeva Steenkamp. The 2011 ad showed the sprinter starting from blocks and the caption “I am the bullet in the chamber” together with Nike’s “Just do it” slogan and logo.   

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