Dunkin’ Donuts Ad in Thailand Causes Uproar

A new ad from the company's Thai division is raising eyebrows, and the donut chain has apologized for it on Twitter

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Grant Peck / AP

An advertisement poster of a smiling woman with bright pink lips in blackface makeup holding a doughnut is seen on a Skytrain, a commuter train in Bangkok, Thailand, Aug. 30, 2013.

A new ad from Dunkin’ Donuts’ Thai division has the American pastry-maker on the defensive and critics in America crying racism.

The Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press report that Dunkin’ Donuts Thailand recently released an advertisement for the company’s “Charcoal Donut,” which displays a young woman wearing pink lipstick and complete blackface makeup. The woman is holding up a partially eaten chocolate donut next to text that reads: “Break every rule of deliciousness.”

(MORE: Dunkin’ Donuts Makes Cronuts)

In America, the marketing campaign immediately drew outrage from both human rights organizations and average citizens. “WOW Racist @DunkinDonuts campaign,” wrote one twitter user.  “What is wrong with people.” Representatives from Human Rights Watch were equally critical. Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for the group, called the ad offensive and demanded that Dunkin’ Donuts apologize.

“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,” Phil Robertson told the AP. “Dunkin’ Donuts should immediately withdraw this ad, publicly apologize to those it’s offended and ensure this never happens again.”

The American headquarters of Dunkin’ Donuts has taken Robertson’s request to heart. The company responded to the scandal through its official twitter account, stating:

However, at least in the campaign’s intended market, the ad appears to be a smash hit. Nadim Salhani, CEO of Dunkin’ Donuts Thailand told the AP that donut sales have gone up 50% since the ad launched — an increase he credits to interest in the company’s new marketing. The CEO was also unapologetic, insisting that criticism of the ad was merely “paranoid American thinking.  “I’m sorry,” said Salhani, “but this is a marketing campaign, and it’s working very well for us.”

(MORE: Thai Villagers Mistake Google Mapper for Spy)

“Charcoal Donut” is certainly not the first Thai ad to be called racist. The country has been home to a brand of mops called “Black Man,” featuring the titular character in a tuxedo as its logo. Another Thai product — a skin whitening cream — advertises that lighter skinned people are more attractive to employers, and a black herbal toothpaste maker has run television commercials with the tagline “Appearance can be deceiving.” Another ad by the same company stated, “It’s black, but it’s good.”

The cultural insensitivity extends even beyond race. In July, students at Chulalongkorn University apologized for a banner that placed Adolf Hitler in between superheroes like Batman and Captain America. The schools dean removed the banner, explaining that “Hitler was supposed to serve as a conceptual paradox to the superheroes.” Hitler was also prominently featured on a billboard for one of the nation’s wax museums.

Despite these examples, Human Rights Watch reports that offensive advertising in Thailand is in a gradual decline. As Robertson told the Los Angeles Times, this donut ad is a relic of an earlier era. The broad trend has been to move away from this kind of racist type advertising,” explained Robertson. “Unfortunately, this advertisement seems to be a bit of a throwback.”

MORE: Thai Dealers Push Candy-Flavored Methamphetamine on Kids Outside Schools

224 comments
MarkAdam
MarkAdam

Love that ad.  I also love black women so bright red lips are fine with me.


AlexanderNielsen
AlexanderNielsen

I like it. I think it is beautiful. But then again I simply view skin colour as ... well, hair colour. Dye it any colour you want. Green, black, white, whatever. It doesn't matter. Is there a historical context for Americans? Well, sure, but why keep reaffirming that skin colour is special? It isn't. It is just like hair colour or eye colour. I am aware that other people might place importance on skin colour, but I just think it is silly. Sure you might find red hair attractive or whatever, I sure do, but it really isn't such a big deal. People have different taste and that is... fine. 

icu2productions
icu2productions

STUPID. if anything this is censorship of art. if you look closely the donut hair skin are all the same color, it isnt a white woman made to look like a black woman it is to make her look the same as the donut. WOW. how stupid people can be in losing perspective. i am sure there are plenty of black people who eat donuts. i DOUGHT pushing them away would be on DD's minds. why not use that vent up need to make a statement and attack the misuse of funds to bank roll other countries, wars and military, and not putting it into jobs, the poor and elderly, cause that IS affecting more then black people. hello.

08104
08104

This is not blackface. Move on (says the proud black chick).

MattCoonan
MattCoonan

wouldn't a black charcoal grill serve the same purpose with a bag of dunkin doughnuts sitting on it with one half eaten or looked like it had been touched and the same woman not in black face paint just saying,

tailhunter10
tailhunter10

Its only racist to the american liberals who have been brainwashed by political correctness. 

 Different country, different culture, different ideology.....

DankevEnv
DankevEnv

someone is always going to be offended over nothing

MauriceAdelmon
MauriceAdelmon

If I had to guess I would say it's a fluff piece, a ploy by DD to get coverage. 

MauriceAdelmon
MauriceAdelmon

I HONESTLY don't understand what's racist about this add ?!?!?!?!?

rb847
rb847

The claim of racism is ridiculous.  Blackface only has racist connotation in the US because of it's past use in connection with racism.  In Thailand, they don't have the same history involving racism  with blackface, so it has no such connotation.  Where is common sense in all of this? Thailand is not the US.  The commercial is for Thai people.  Some people need to grow up and not try to force US cultural understandings on people in other countries.

TylaSosaHager
TylaSosaHager

How is this ad "racist"? Is the color black in and of itself "racist" now? There are no negative suggestions here. The woman is betrayed as beautiful and desirable. I really do not see what all the outcry is about.

illusiodesign
illusiodesign

Nadim Salhani, please be sure to tell your Creative Director one word: research.

716
716

Of course its oversensitive Americans complaining about an ad from another country that they'll never see. Its not even racist... In fact i think its more "racist" to assume that shes supposed to be wearing black face. I don't even think Thailand would know what black face is, it's not part Thai history, it's from american history. If you dont like it, dont go to Thailand. I would actually appreciate anyone offended by this ad stay in America and never leave. 

shaunieMe
shaunieMe

newsflash. majority of blacks don't care about the ad because its an ad, nobody cares. lucky if anyone even know about it. just because you see it on the internet, it doesn't mean its the voice of some horde of black people with picket signs in the united states rallying against the ad. jeez people get a brain.there are 35 million black people in the united states. learn to separate news media from reality. no where does it even mention black ppl in the ad.

Oishiimaru
Oishiimaru

Just goes to show how sensitive, insecure and ASHAMED blacks are about the melanin levels in their skin.

Perhaps an easier way to avoid future discomfort would be for all black people to bleach their skin white.

mahadragon
mahadragon

Am I the only person who thinks a charcoal flavored donut wouldn't be very good?

I have charcoal flavored meat sometimes, but it isn't charcoal because I wanted it that way. 

mahadragon
mahadragon

What is wrong with Americans? Way too freaking sensitive. If I was in Thailand (which I've been), I wouldn't think anything of it. Just another ad on the train. Every fricking little thing is controversial. If I sneeze I'm liable to get sued by someone.

Janet Jackson lets a little sipple nip and America is in uproar. It's older acts like the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen for the next umpteen years. Meanwhile people in Europe are wondering what the hell is wrong with Americans? 

EyeKantSpeell
EyeKantSpeell

Geez...I can't believe someone is calling this ad racist....People are gonna have to stop being little "sensitive sally" over everthing that has to do with the colour black!..the ad is about the donut and nothing else!! Get a grip people and quit running around and acting like "little" al sharptin!!

applesnapple
applesnapple

So, by this logic color cannot be applied to people in advertisements any longer?

GrannySmith
GrannySmith

I do not see the racism.... Black donut, Black model, black coffee... It is a visual thing... I am gettting a little sick and tired of everything being racist.... you cannot even say: OH I like those black jeans'" without some yahoo finding something racist in that....

gbeck
gbeck

Looks delicious.  Gotta try one of those.  With a large black coffee.  That is to say, no cream or sugar...in no way depicting color, creed or nationality.  Just to be sure nobody is offended by my order.  I wouldn't want to be thought of as racist or anything.  The previous comment mentioning racism is to be in no way interpreted as racist.  Nor that reference...etc..etc.  Will it end?  Only when we stop talking about it and let it fade into an unfortunate memory.  Forget it.

iMaximusRex
iMaximusRex

Sorry, this isn't a natural skin color, and certainly isn't blackface.  Even if they had gotten someone of african descent to pose for this, they would have had to paint them to match the Charcoal colored donut.

Blackface is certainly offensive, but painting someone an unnatural skin color to match the color of a product isn't that.

VlsPoshBright-Taylor
VlsPoshBright-Taylor

Listen people, before you start bashing us black people, know your facts. This made headline news because it was first reported by the deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, Phil Robertson, he demanded that Dunkin Donuts take the advert down. Stop pointing fingers as maybe this Mr. Robertson knows the insensitivity behind this particular ad. Oh, guess what, he's Caucasian.

Also, people spewing gibberish about how "us" black people are "this" and "that" is truly disconcerting to read. If America had been the country to say that the advert is insensitive, it would have been rightly acceptable as Dunkin Donuts is an American global doughnuts company and coffeehouse chain based in Canton, Massachusetts. This had nothing to do with the standards of the US. 

Racism is dead, yeah right....what some people are spewing out right now in this commentary section says otherwise and it had nothing to do with this add. 

TravAub
TravAub

Now I could see if the advert said, "Charcoal Donut for African Americans--so good it'll make your lips look like a white woman's lips", but c'mon...



TheLazyComic
TheLazyComic

I am so over Omerica. I'm sick of everything being racist, corrupt, broken, etc.  Why don't I leave, you ask? I don't have the money to do so... but if you'd like to make a donation for my exit, I'll gladly accept. Randy, TLC.

YouAreDiseased
YouAreDiseased

@tailhunter10 Ok, so things that happen in different countries have no affect on other countries?  So, world wars never happen, Minstrel shows never happened in different countries, etc....You're completely delusional!

sidneyselt
sidneyselt

@tailhunter10 are you serious???  You speak like a know-nothing white person who likes the status quo. Racism exists all over the world, didn't you read the article as it is their advertising past and today it is changing--this ad was a throw back to that past of racist advertising, Nadim, representing Dunkin Donut's SE Asian sales is in for the money only and she will sell red, brown or black people for a price--she wants to hang out with the white folks and be their lap dog--so Nadim, how much is the human soul going for today? Giving a baker's dozen??? (where you get one free for buying a dozen.) Yes different country, culture and ideology, yet your raising that trilogy to a level of sacroscant status does not make the ideology appropriate for the world even if it makes money in the global market. People who sell human souls are all lower-level thinking animals--and most meet the fate they promote.

sidneyselt
sidneyselt

@rb847 the US has influenced and continues to influence other parts of the world, so don't give me that cyber trash talk that the US and the West does not influence the world in advertising, and the same advertising system that promotes their racism in their media. The Thais, as Asians, must not recognize they are stereotyped by the West in the media. We live in a global economy and you will continue to find all kinds of "isms" though the "insult" may not be intentional, the sting of those "isms" never fully dissipates. 

DirgaOngkowidagdo
DirgaOngkowidagdo

@illusiodesignI wonder if american Creative Director researched that the treatment of cows in cowboys ads are offensive to Indians? or this just works for americans because they are the center of the world?

Openminded1
Openminded1

@gbeck if blacks forget about it , Al sharpton and big mouth Jessie jack ass jackson will be out of work, oh wait that would be a good thing.

716
716

@VlsPoshBright-Taylor the problem is an American in Thailand is telling Thai people that an ad in their country is racist based on American standards. Thailand isn't America and has a completely different culture and history. Also people who get offended towards every little thing just for personal gain draw a lot of resentment, so stupid things like this do not help the cause. By the way this is an ad as in advertisement, not mathematics.

Oishiimaru
Oishiimaru

@VlsPoshBright-Taylor If black people weren't so mortified by the melanin levels in their own skin, perhaps this kind of thing wouldn't bring out the wannabe PC, bleeding hearts.

Just a thought.

Oishiimaru
Oishiimaru

@TheLazyComic The irony is, 'Merritards kill more black people than anyone!

I guess that's why they feel the need to jump on anything that looks even remotely risque- to hide their own REAL, deep-rooted racist tendencies.

jarrettdarr
jarrettdarr

@sidneyselt @tailhunter10 

This may well be the only time I agree with tailhunter10, but as an American liberal who worked with Thais in Thailand for over a decade, I learned firsthand that Thai people, whether they were graduate engineers or barefoot farm laborers,  viewed "Darky"  toothpaste (which showed a blackface minstrel on the toothpaste tube) with no racism or negativism. When I tried to convince them that the logo was racist and bad, at least in European/American eyes, they replied, "But I thought you Americans liked blackface minstrels. I saw it in an American movie!" Different culture. Different historical viewpoints.  

DanelleOH
DanelleOH

@Oishiimaru @TheLazyComic 

Actually black people kill more black people than anybody.  Using your logic, black people have deep rooted racial hatred for black people. 

AlexanderNielsen
AlexanderNielsen

@on_kew @jarrettdarr @sidneyselt @tailhunter10 Is it the intention of the speaker, or the interpretation of the viewer that makes things racist? I can't speak about the intention behind the ad, but as a viewer, I don't see what is racist about dyeing skin dark, just as I don't see what is racist about dyeing skin lighter. It is just like dyeing hair. There is a historical context, sure, but why should we keep reaffirming that skin colour is different from hair colour? It really isn't. It is just aesthetics. Dye it any colour your want; it doesn't matter. And for you who do feel that it does matter, ask yourselves who the racists are ;)

on_kew
on_kew

@jarrettdarr @sidneyselt @tailhunter10

So, it's not racist if everyone believes it...? Not sure I understand the difference. Forget the historic context, it's still a pretty derogatory way to represent people of color in such homogeneous country. 

Oishiimaru
Oishiimaru

@DanelleOH @Oishiimaru @TheLazyComic 

Actually, black people just have a predilection violence, irrespective of who the victims are.  Listen to some rap music if you don't believe. ...or watch some news, research some statistics or learn some history.