It turns out that I am not the only one who has a notion that advertising by Popeyes Southern Fried Chicken exploits racial stereotypes. Social media site members and bloggers are calling the Popeyes campaign racist.
Part of the Popeyes media strategy has been to use “real” people in advertisements. For its new campaign, the Popeyes spokesperson is “Annie the Chicken Queen,” a straight-talking, feisty Southern black woman telling it like it is about her chicken. “I work my fanny off making this chicken perfect,” she says, “and they practically give it away.”
AFC Enterprises is the parent company responsible for developing, operating and franchising the Popeyes Chicken brand. The advertising firm GSD&M Idea City created the campaign.
A statement from Popeyes CMO Dick Lynch said that Annie is meant to be an “honest, vibrant, youthful and authentic” character.
“Everyone has a relative or a good friend who will give it to them straight,” Lynch said, “and that’s what Annie is all about.”
Though the commercial popped up on my genetic “race-dar,” I thought it was borderline. Others, however, take a stronger view.
A group on Facebook calls for a boycott. “Popeyes Chicken is a restaurant that thrives off of the black community…,” the group states. “Although Popeyes is not the first fast food chain to feature a commercial with racial stereotypes, this recent offering is so OVERT and if it were filmed in black and white it would look like something straight out of Amos and Andy! If you haven’t seen the commercial I speak of it features an African American Woman in her 40’s who is working at a Popeyes. The minute the lady open’s her mouth she sounds like a Jive-talking mammy. It is enough to make a person want to cringe.”
In the latest ad, she even appears in front of a picnic table and a lawn lined with southern oaks.
Are the commercials really racist? I believe they are not.
The first few advertisements were OK, but when they put her on a lawn lined with large Southern oaks, I thought “plantation.” Then I considered those theories surrounding the origin of “picnic” as being a social event ending in a lynching (though etymologists may take issue).
But, all that aside, I have to say, I like Annie the Chicken Queen. To me, someone native to the South, she seems familiar. She tugs at my heart with the comforting hospitality of Southern black matriarchs.
The problem may arise in how Popeyes positions her in the campaign. Exploitation is not good.
So, keep an eye on Popeyes, and see where its ad campaign takes Annie, and what she might do next to sell more chicken.