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Ad showing black boy being fed like dog faces no action

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A television commercial that prompted complaints for its portrayal of a white woman feeding a young black boy like a dog will not be formally investigated, South Africa’s advertising watchdog has ruled.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) says it is satisfied the actions of the organization behind the advert, Feed a Child — which has withdrawn the commercial and published a formal apology — address complainants’ concerns.

The first scene from the advertisement shows the woman watching television with the boy lying across her lap. She strokes him like a pet and feeds him popcorn with her fingers.

It then portrays the boy bringing her a newspaper as she eats breakfast in bed. She rewards him with a morsel of food.

Icing a cake, she lets him lick her fingers and later passes him crumbs as she eats the cake.

Finally the advertisement switches to a dining room where the woman is eating dinner, the young boy crouched on the floor below her, looking up. She passes him small portions of food in her fingers — feeding him like a dog.

The commercial then switches to a text message reading: “The average domestic dog eats better than millions of children,” before asking for donations to Feed a Child. On its website, Feed a Child says one in 10 children in South Africa suffers from malnutrition and dies within the first 12 months of life.

The advert sparked a range of reaction on social media, some complained, including @AlexanderHampel who tweeted:

“Definitely the wrong way to get a message across. Who approves these ads? Hugely racist. What do you think? feed a child #feedachild,” While @CurateZar wrote: “That advert was in such poor taste. Don’t think there’s a way to go around it. What were trying to achieve? Just wow. #FeedAChild

Meanwhile @MsLeloB wrote: “People Outraged about the #FeedAChild ad as expected but is it not reality? Use that energy to feed a child not lodge complaints,”

ASA said it had received 12 complaints about the advertisement since Monday.

“The complainants submitted that the commercial is offensive, racist and tasteless. It suggests that white people treat and feed black kids like dogs, which is exceptionally degrading and dehumanizing,” it said.

“The second complainant argued that the comparison between dog owners and starving children is unfounded and irrelevant. Every dog owner carries the responsibility to feed and care for their dog, just like the state and / or a parent carries the responsibility to care for their children. It is not the responsibility of dog owners to feed other people’s children. Suggesting that white people are happy to feed their dogs expensive food, but not to help starving black children is offensive.”

ASA said it was “significant to note” that Feed a Child had published a formal apology on its website and that its YouTube channel now featured a video of its CEO apologizing and contextualizing the advertisement and its intended commercial message.


‘Unreserved apology’

The video apology opens with text reading: “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?”

Feed a Child founder and CEO Alza Rautenbach then addresses the camera.

“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,” she says in her statement.

Feed a Child’s online statement offers an “unreserved apology” to anyone offended or hurt by the commercial.

“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. This was most certainly not the intention, and again we apologize,” Feed a Child said.

In a statement released earlier, Feed a Child had said: “The commercial is intentionally emotive to trigger the necessary awareness on this issue to generate engagement and contributions.”

Advertising company Ogilvy and Mather, who created the advertisement, also issued an apology, saying it was aware of the “negative reaction” it sparked and that it had not intended to cause offense.


    • athynz

      Stop asking the question about what if it was a white child being fed by a black woman.”

      Why? Does my question offend you? Does it make you think? And BTW I’m not in the habit of doing what some random chick on the net tells me to do so I will continue to ask whatever question I deem necessary without your approval. Deal with it.

      “Well it is not. It is a BLACK child.”

      Well yeah and/or duh. That’s not what I asked. I asked if there would be similar outrage if it was a white child being fed that way, a black woman feeding a white child that way, or a black woman feeding a black child that way. In your world the answer is obviously a no – that it would be okay just as long at it’s not a white woman feeding a black child like that. Hypocritical much? Personally I feel that all of the above would be wrong… it’s a child not a pet.

      “If that how she had to feed him she should have kept her crumbs and gave them to her kids.”

      Agreed – or better yet feed the child first.

      • paula

        No it don’t offend me. I am just sick of silly uneducated people like you can’t see the real story or don’t want to see it

    • athynz

      No it don’t offend me. I am just sick of silly uneducated people like you can’t see the real story or don’t want to see it”

      Silly uneducated people like me – you have no idea about my education. I can be silly at times – but that’s neither here nor there. I asked if you would be similarly outraged if the ads were different. Obviously you would not be. That’s the problem because no matter what color the kid or woman is the whole situation is offensive. But let me guess – it’s only racist if it comes from a white person, right?

  • Mo

    Always looking for something to complain about??Racist??Not racist??It’s a decision for each individual.I’d rather you feed me like a dog,rather than kick me like a dog anyway.You see racist people everyday,but never notice until it’s a white person showing some act which we think is racist.Feed the child like a snake….I don’t care,but least he/she will live another day with hope!!By the way,I am a COLOURED!!!

  • athynz

    I wonder if they’d have the same reaction if the child was a white child being fed by a white woman or a black child being fed by a black woman? Or what about a white child being fed by a black woman? People put too much focus on one’s “race” when quite frankly we are all of one race – human.

  • Mo

    LOL.Now why would I wanna be white while everyone else wants to be coloured?????The fact is,all you racist ‘scouters’ wanna find racism in everything,even in the truth!!For example…just an example….I say ‘JuJu looks like a monkey’.That’s my opinion!Is dat being racist or the truth??I bet you saying that’s racist????The truth is that some dogs are fed better than our starving kids(black,white,coloured,all South African starving kids),but find it in your humane self to take time out to feed a child the way you do it to feed your pets,not literally feed them like dogs

  • houza

    i really dont thnk its fair for a black child to be feed like a dog. obviously ppl will b offended..espclly ppl who came from poor bckground.#>poor advertising indeed<

  • Mo

    Ok…..let’s make a white child be fed like a dog????Will that be fair???The child was fed and paid for the advert people,let it go?There will always be racist groups and people(black,white,coloured and Indian) because of the misled ways we were brought up.I come from a poor background,but don’t hate or blame it on the white government of that time cos now is my time!!I will not allow myself to live in a struggle and carry my misunderstanding to my kids!Lets not be ignorant?

  • johnny b good

    I am white as snow, and not racist. But this ad is racist without question. If you don’t have a problem with this ad, then you have a problem with reality

    • athynz

      So if this was a white child being fed like this would it be an issue? How about a white child being fed like this by a black woman? Black child and black woman? There is simply too much focus on “race”… we are all one race.

      • paula

        Stop asking the question about what if it was a white child being fed by a black woman. Well it is not. It is a BLACK child. If that how she had to feed him she should have kept her crumbs and gave them to her kids.

  • Elizabeth Delana Rosa

    The question in this is not about race, it’s about showing that the dogs are being better loved than children. I don’t like how they did it but it’s about making you think that these children aren’t getting what dogs do. Gosh knows, that’s wrong.

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