The Thailand branch of Dunkin’ Donuts initially responded that the outrage amounted to “paranoid American thinking.” In fact, Dunkin’s Thailand CEO Nadim Salhani noted, their sales have been up.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” Salhani said.. “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?”
But Human Rights Watch said it is unacceptable that an international brand adopt this line of marketing.
“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.”
The corporate office responded more apologetically than the Thailand franchise and announced it would end the campaign. “Dunkin’ Donuts recognizes the insensitivity of this spot,” Chief Communications Officer Karen Raskopf said. “On behalf of our Thailand franchisee and our company, we apologize for any offense it caused.”
Other major companies in the U.S. have crossed the line before. For its 2012 Super Bowl ad, Acura sought a “not too dark” car dealer. Meanwhile, Mountain Dew, owned by Pepsi, was responsible for a commercial dubbed “arguably the most racist” in history, which promoted a series of stereotypes about black men and violence.