Dunkin’ Donuts recently came under fire for an ad featured in Thailand but quickly extinguished their PR fire with an apology. The ad featured a woman in blackface makeup, bright pink lips, a beehive hairdo, and holding a half eaten chocolate donut from the “charcoal” donut line. The ad was brought to the attention of Human Rights Watch (HRW), an independent organization dedicated to defending and protecting human rights, and they deemed it “bizarre and racist”.
In a statement to the New York Daily News, Karen Raskopf, the chief communications officer for Dunkin’ Brands, said the campaign for the dark chocolate donuts was indeed “insensitive”:
On behalf of our Thailand franchise 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.
But not everyone thought the ad was offensive. Citing the success of the ad campaign and a 50 percent increase in sales since the campaign premiered, Nadim Salhani, Dunkin Donut’s Thailand CEO, told the Bangkok Post, “It’s absolutely ridiculous. 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?” Salhani, who is Lebanese, also told the Bangkok Post that she doesn’t think everyone in the world is “is paranoid about racism”. Ironically, Salhani’s teenage daughter was the one used in the campaign.