Are Kenyan consumers just a pretentious lot on advert messages targeting their households?

It started with a Facebook post on the popular consumer awareness group, Buyer Beware where a member decried a billboard advertisement that claimed a balanced diet was a Nuvita cookie in each hand.

The post caused a  furore on social media that saw a section of Kenyans join the bandwagon terming the message as misleading because there is no way that a cookie on its own can be a balanced diet.

As evidenced by the hue and cry, it is clear to see that Kenyans are more aware of their health and are actually watching what they eat. Some people were clear that it is wrong to send such messages in the face of increasing Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) such as obesity.

On the other hand, some users remained adamant that the owner of the post was just petty and pretentious because it was a willing buyer willing seller arrangement meaning she could just ignore them and go for more healthy and balanced alternatives. Besides, aren’t they the same people that throng fasts food joints with their children to buy for them burgers, hot dogs, greasy chicken and chips? Aren’t their shopping baskets always heavily laden with chocolates and crisps and other types of unhealthy snacks?

The outcry was so loud that it reached the Ministry of Health which dramatically ordered the confectionary company to pull down the offending advert.

 As the advert was pulled down and replaced almost immediately, some people still insisted that the company had been targeted unfairly and that if we were to complain about Nuvita cookies we should complain about all of snacks and what is written on them.

Yesterday another advertisement on a billboard came up and this time the offending issue was perceived racism. The advertisement shows the characters of an animation movie called Frozen that involves two princesses Elsa and Anna. It speaks of sibling love where Anna helps Elsa overcome a curse that had condemned her to freezing anything she touched with her bare hands. It is quite a lovely movie and it is easy to see why kids love it.

Brookside Ltd, a company that produces milk and milk products  sought to milk as much money from parents whose children love this movie as possible by branding their yoghurt products with the pictures of the two princesses along with the name of the movie. A harmless advert right? Many people who saw the advert on a billboard thought it was a harmless advertisement that only spoke to their children who love the movie.

Another group of people, however, thought otherwise because a post on the same group revealed that some parents and other people actually saw it as promoting racism. They wondered why a country with predominantly black people would brand their products targeting kids with photos of white princesses. They thought that it was sending a message that implied white was better than black when it came to advertisement.

Evelyn Mung’au It’s the institutionalization of racism. Slowly working it into the people’s minds that black isn’t good enough or in fact bad. There are Disney Characters of Colour e.g. Moana and Doc McStuffins. There would be (I bet) less hue and cry if there were those characters on the billboards instead of two snow white ladies.

As they ranted away they even wondered why the company did not use the photos of little Tom and Mary that were the main characters in the Read with Us series. The latter was a series used to teach the English language in Kenya back in the 80s and 90s. But on the other hand there are people who said that the new generation does not know about those beloved characters of yesteryears.

Here are some reactions online

Grace Muthoni Nyangi Really??….my four-year-old, who is the target market, doesn’t know these Tom and Mary chatacters……so how will this sell?…coz that’s the essence of investing in push sales.

Kinyanjui Kahunya I don’t blame Brookside dairy, our children don’t know that book or its characters! They watch princess Sophia & Ben 10. Until the day they get option of watching Black cartoons, NOBODY should complain.
Its important to remember you are not the target market! (Its the kids)

Bikheri A Idris   this means I have to tell a short story just before my kids take their yoghurt ? surely let’s just give them what they know. We are getting too unnecessarily offended these days

Catherine Mudhune
 but who will be inspired to buy this surely

It’s a point for me actually. My kid will go for the yogurt coz she knows the animation by heart. Introduce animation characters (black or kenyan) that kids can relate to then we can argue. Otherwise this is good marketing

Martin Stretch Mwangi nowadays kids can’t relate with Tom and Mary. let the local media houses come up with something interesting for our kids

As the debate raged on, there are those who said that while they would have loved to buy products whose advertising depicted our color, culture and values, there were no Kenyan cartoons. The closest we have to our own cartoon characters are Kirikuu,  Akili, and those from Ubongo Kids produced in Tanzania. Some people also complained of the fact that few productions done by Kenyan producers were of low quality or that actors were not inspiring.

Patrick Mwangi granted local talent is mostly rubbish (looking at you eric omondi and your ilk) but the local market is already so skewed to anything that is not kenyan. look at the concerts – naija guys come here, overcharge, underperform and leave. munalia 2 weeks alafu munasahau. the next one comes, tickets are sold out in a few days.

There is a group that that thought all those against this advert were pretentious because they buy birthday cakes with images of popular white cartoons from the west. Such cartoons include Sophia the first, Spiderman, Superman and so on. The same characters are found on beddings of little ones in our houses. We seem to have no problem if we are the ones doing these things but take the moral high ground when companies seek to use them to their advantage.

Sarah Haluwa I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it again. People who complain about this and they have weaves and wigs on their hair are major hypocrites. Clearly if you can’t embrace your own Africanism (kinky hair and stuff), just sit at the corner and stay quiet. You are the biggest influence on your kids, not just animations on TV. You can broadcast as many cartoons with black princesses buuut if you don’t set the perfect example at home, hio ni bure tu.

Marie Mahondo We should stop pretending and most parents have man U and arsenal gears everywhere,wacha watoto wa enjoy what they like,dont force issues

Whether pretentious or not it is clear that the Kenyan consumer is very much aware of what is out there, keen on the messages that are being sent to their households.


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