Dunkin' Donuts Pulls 'Racist' Ad Campaign in Thailand

Is this ad "racist"?


The answer is "yes" if you want to cause a ruckus, as Human Rights Watch in Asia did.

The L.A. Times reports:

Dunkin' Donuts on Friday apologized and will pull an advertising campaign running in Thailand that features a model in blackface makeup offering a chocolate doughnut.

Dunkin' Donuts in Thailand had come under fire Friday for an ad that the Human Rights Watch said was racist.

The ad in question was for Dunkin's "charcoal donut" and it features a model wearing blackface makeup and bright pink lipstick holding up a bitten doughnut. The translated Thai slogan reads: "Break every rule of deliciousness."

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Karen Raskopf, chief communications officer for Dunkin' Brands, apologized for the advertising running in Thailand.

"Dunkin' Donuts recognizes the insensitivity of this spot," Raskopf said. "On behalf of our Thailand franchisee and our company, we apologize for any offense it caused. We are working with our franchisee to immediately pull the television spot and to change the campaign."

The marketing effort first drew fire from the Human Rights Watch.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division for the group, said it's "rather incredible that an international company like Dunkin' Donuts" would run such an ad.

The Associated Press said it's common in Thailand for marketing to feature racist undertones. A Thai skin whitening cream, for instance, is advertised in television commercials as boosting job prospects for those who use it. According to the AP, the commercials say white-skinned people have a better chance of landing a job than those with dark skin.

There's also a line of household mops and dust pans sold under the "Black Man" label. Product labeling features a smiling black man in a tuxedo and bow tie.

The initial reaction of the Dunkin' Donuts Thailand CEO was incredulity:

"It's absolutely ridiculous," said CEO Nadim Salhani. "We're not allowed to use black to promote our doughnuts? I don't get it. What's the big fuss? What if the product was white and I painted someone white, would that be racist?"

In answer to the gentleman's query about what if they used white to promote a product -- nobody would care. And isn't that the point?

Take a close look at that ad. It is a stylized portrait of a woman with decidedly non-black features. The lips are prominent only because they are colored pink. In fact, it is supposed to be a charcoal drawing, in line with the campaign's product -- a "charcoal donut."

The rather nebulous racial features of the face a suggest more Caucasian origin than black. (Note: Yes, my racialist friends, there are definite differences in facial features between the Caucasian and black races.) In fact, the coloring isn't even black -- it is charcoal gray.

The Associated Press tried to muddy the waters by mentioning other products and ads that were racist by intent. That is not the case here.

The reason this ad is considered racist is because Human Rights Watch saw an opportunity to garner some free publicity by claiming it was racist -- not because there was any racist intent by Dunkin' Donuts or the company that designed the ad.