Dunkin Donuts ad campaign launched in Thailand (Photo courtesy of Dunkin Donuts Facebook page)
BANGKOK (AP) - A leading human rights group has called on Dunkin' Donuts to withdraw a "bizarre and racist" advertisement for chocolate doughnuts that shows a smiling woman in blackface makeup.
The Dunkin' Donuts franchise in Thailand launched a campaign earlier this month for its new "Charcoal Donut," featuring an image reminiscent of 19th and early 20th century American stereotypes for black people that are now considered offensive symbols of a racist era.
Human Rights Watch said Friday that it was shocked to see an American brand name running an advertising campaign that would draw "howls of outrage" if released in the United States.
The company's chief executive in Thailand initially defended the campaign, but the U.S. headquarters quickly followed up with an apology.
"We are working with our Thailand franchisee to immediately pull the ad. DD recognizes the insensitivity of this spot," Dunkin' Donuts said in a tweet posted on its official U.S. website after complaints erupted on Twitter, in a variety of blogs and in mainstream American media.
Hours before the apology was issued by Dunkin' Donuts headquarters, Dunkin' Donuts' CEO in Thailand, Nadim Salhani, dismissed the criticism as "paranoid American thinking" and called it "absolutely ridiculous."
The campaign hasn't ruffled many in Thailand, where it's common for advertisements to inexplicably use racial stereotypes. A Thai brand of household mops and dustpans called "Black Man" uses a logo with a smiling black man in a tuxedo and bow tie. One Thai skin-whitening cream runs TV commercials that say white-skinned people have better job prospects than those with dark skin. An herbal Thai toothpaste says its dark-colored product "is black, but it's good."
Salhani said that the Thai franchise of Dunkin' Donuts operates independently of the American operation.
The Associated Press