The recent Mark Knight caricature depicting tennis player Serena Williams published in Herald Sun has caused worldwide furore, with many condemning its racist and sexist undertones.
As the uproar over the caricature continues, it is also important to address how the cartoon, and News’ reaction to it, may influence brands looking to advertise with the publisher.
Speaking to B&T, Carat’s head of strategy for Sydney, Danni Wright, questioned, “What is the impact and what potential negative halo will it have?”
“I think it’s right for brands to react, I wouldn’t be surprised if a brand said, ‘we don’t want to appear in that publication’.
“While brands cannot and should not pertain to control where they appear down to the level of editorial coverage, there will be brands who have a strong steer on their identity and what they stand for, who find themselves at odds with the publication given its response to it.”
“If I was having a conversation with clients about it I would be open with my views,” Wright added.
While social media users were quick to criticise Knight and Herald Sun, News Corp was equally as quick to defend Knight, with Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston stating: “A champion tennis player had a mega tantrum on the world stage, and Mark’s cartoon depicted that. It had nothing to do with gender or race.”
Meanwhile, News executive chairman Michael Miller posted on LinkedIn: “Criticism of Mark Knight’s Serena Williams cartoon shows the world has gone too PC & misunderstands the role of news media cartoons and satire.
“Poor behaviour in any sport needs to be called out,” he added.
However for Wright, “The way they’ve reacted and then doubled down says a lot about their ethos.”
Speaking on the criticism, Wright said the most problematic issue with the cartoon is how Williams has been portrayed next to her Haitian-Japanese opponent, Naomi Osaka.
“In this day and age, it’s inexcusable how they depicted Serena and the opponent.
“A caricature dials up something that’s already there, but as they’ve done that in comparison to her competitor, they’ve changed Osaka’s race and stature and made her look very feminine.
“It’s the polarity of the comparison.
“It becomes really stark that if you’re permissive and the victim in the situation then you’re white and feminine whereas, Serena is depicted as the polar opposite,” Wright added.
B&T has approached News Corp for comment.