Dunkin’ Donuts has apologized for an advertisement it ran in Thailand featuring a woman in blackface makeup.
The ad was for a new “charcoal donut” – a chocolate donut. It showed a woman wearing dark makeup and bright pink lipstick holding a donut with a bite taken out of it.
The donut chain’s top guy in Thailand had defended the campaign, launched earlier this month.
"It's absolutely ridiculous," said Nadim Salhani, CEO of the Thai franchise. "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?"
Human Rights Watch had complained about the ad, which it said would cause “howls of outrage” if it had run in the United States.
"It's both bizarre and racist that Dunkin' Donuts thinks that it must color a woman's skin black and accentuate her lips with bright pink lipstick to sell a chocolate doughnut," said Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.
"Dunkin' Donuts should immediately withdraw this ad, publicly apologize to those it's offended and ensure this never happens again."
On Friday, a company spokesman told Britain’s The Guardian that it was pulling a planned TV spot that would have featured the same imagery.
“Dunkin' Donuts recognizes the insensitivity of this spot and on behalf of our Thailand franchisee and our company, we apologize for any offense it caused," Karen Raskopf, chief communications officer for Dunkin' Brands, said in a statement to the Guardian.
“We are working with our franchisee to immediately pull the television spot and to change the campaign."
Salhani, who noted that his franchise operates independently of Dunkin’ Donuts operations in America, said that donut sales had increased about 50 percent since the campaign’s launch two weeks ago.
"Not everybody in the world is paranoid about racism," said Salhani, a Lebanese expatriate in Thailand. "I'm sorry, but this is a marketing campaign, and it's working very well for us."
The model featured in the ad?