A human rights group on Friday criticized a Dunkin’ Donuts advertising campaign running in Thailand that features a model whose face is painted black to sell a chocolate doughnut.
Dunkin’ Donuts Thailand recently started running ads for its “Charcoal Donut,” which features a model wearing blackface makeup and bright pink lipstick and holding up a bitten doughnut. The translated Thai slogan reads: “Break every rule of deliciousness.”
Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, said it’s “rather incredible that an international company like Dunkin’ Donuts” would run such an ad.
In a phone interview with The Times, he said the ad “fits into a long history of racist advertisements in Southeast Asia.”
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.
A message left with a Dunkin’ Donuts spokesman was not immediately returned Friday, but the chief executive of Dunkin’ Donuts in Thailand told the AP that the criticism is just “paranoid American thinking.”
“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?”
Robertson, who has lived in Thailand for 20 years, said that in recent years, racist advertising has declined in Thailand.
“The broad trend has been to move away from this kind of racist type advertising,” he said. “Unfortunately, this advertisement seems to be a bit of a throwback."