Watch: 5 of the most racially awkward adverts in South Africa

While South Africa consistently creates award winning adverts on a global scale, some can miss the mark given the social make-up of the country.

While a few ads push the limits on taste – or get downright cheeky – when it comes to presenting sex, dealing with race can be a far trickier proposition.

Some agencies get it right, such as this advert for a Ford Bantam.

Other agencies are less successful – either through bad timing, bad characterisation, or simply poor conceptualisation.

Here are 5 of South Africa’s most awkward adverts – where race is used as the major theme.

Nando’s Diversity

Nando’s is known for delivering some of the best adverts in South Africa – but not without courting some controversy.

Following a spate of xenophobic attacks in the country, Nando’s humorously tried to depict how the country would look without all “those foreigners”. Unfortunately, it was viewed by many as insensitive, mainly because some foreigners were murdered during the attacks.

Due to the timing of the advert, it was pulled from airing on SABC, though the ASA later ruled that it had not broken any ethical rules.

Cape Town Fish Market “Fresh”

While South African comedian Leon Schuster is no stranger to playing at “blackface” – the racist trope of white people dressing up as black people is a gimmick out of place in South Africa today.

So much so that when Cape Town Fish Market aired an advert featuring the tired gimmick, it caused outrage.

The restaurant chain followed up with an advert  apologising for causing offense.

Steers Big 5

Not all racially awkward adverts involve the black vs white controversy.

A Steers advert showcasing its “big 5” burgers features a group of foreign tourists on a safari.

Headlining the group is an Asian tourist that claims to have eaten all of the big five.

Not only does the ad play on the stereotype that Asians eat everything – the character also speaks with the caricatured trait of replacing R’s with l’s.

Feed A Child

One of the most controversial and awkward adverts dealing with race came from charity, Feed A Child in 2014.

The advert shows a small black child being treated like a dog by a clearly affluent white woman.

While the ad’s creators said that the purpose of the advert was not to liken a black child to a dog – and rather show that people care for and feed their pets better than people – viewers would not have any of it.

Following wide criticism and outrage, the charity was forced to apologise.

Xpanda radio ad

In 2013, security gate manufacturer, Xpanda Group aired a radio that characterises everything you shouldn’t do when portraying race in the country.

It plays on stereotypes that blacks are criminals and love chicken. The ad was met with the suitable backlash.

Xpanda said that it had four ads that featured white, Indian and coloured men – unfortunately the other ads also played off of tired stereotypes. So instead of offending one group, it offended all.

Here is the transcript:

Voice artists 1: “What you inside for, boet?”

Voice artists 2: “Eish, I was so hungry. So I walk up to the kitchen by the boss’s house and grab a roast chicken. The madam, she slammed the Xpanda door in my face. No way out. That is how I ended up in jail, with no chicken. Eish.”

Voice artists 3: “Xpanda, arguably the world’s best barrier security company. Dial 0861972632, or visit, to get your safety on.”

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Watch: 5 of the most racially awkward adverts in South Africa