Update at bottom: KFC pulls add

Perhaps Australia somehow missed the memo that linking black people to fried chicken can be considered offensive. Or maybe, down under, playing up stereotypes to sell fast food just isn't a sin.

As part of a series of ads called "KFC's guide to cricket survival," the Australian branch of the US-based fried chicken chain released an ad that has some critics accusing the company of racial insensitivity.

The ad shows a worried white man in a crowd of dancing black people. "Need a tip when you're stuck in an awkward situation?" the man asks, and then passes a bucket of KFC chicken to the black people around him. "Too easy," the man quips.

Coverage of the controversy in Australian media suggests Australians may not be aware of the stereotype that links African-Americans to excessive consumption of fried chicken. "Australian KFC ad labeled racist by US commentators," states a headline at Rupert Murdoch's News.com.au Web site.

That article quotes KFC spokespeople as saying that the ad was "misinterpreted by a segment of people in the US."

"It is a light-hearted reference to the West Indian cricket team," KFC said.

Australia's Channel 9 news quoted KFC as saying that "the ad was reproduced online in the US without KFC's permission, where we are told a culturally-based stereotype exists, leading to the incorrect assertion of racism. ... We unequivocally condemn discrimination of any type and have a proud history as one of the world's leading employers for diversity."

Celebrity gossip site TMZ is reporting that KFC has decided to pull the ad, despite the company's protestations of there being nothing untoward.

KFC Australia issued a statement Thursday saying it would immediately remove the advertisement "to avoid the possibility of any further offence".

"We apologise for any misinterpretation of the ad as it was not meant to offend anyone," the restaurant chain said.

Prior to pulling the ad KFC had defended it as a "light-hearted reference to the West Indian cricket team", and said it was unaware a "culturally based stereotype" existed in the US relating to fried chicken.

The following video was posted to YouTube by user ThunderCurls.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/v/FftZt-Dw_hQ&hl=en_US&fs=1& expand=1]

(with AFP report)