Dunkin' Donuts has apologised for the "insensitivity" of an advertising campaign in Thailand featuring a woman in blackface make-up to promote a new chocolate flavoured doughnut.
The Dunkin' Donuts franchise in Thailand came under criticism after Human Rights Watch called the advertisements "bizarre and racist".
The company's chief executive in Thailand initially defended the campaign, but the US headquarters quickly followed up with an apology.
@uoenothough We are working with our Thailand franchisee to immediately pull the ad. DD recognizes the insensitivity of this spot.
The local franchise launched the advertisement earlier this month to promote its new Charcoal Donut. In posters, TV commercials and on Facebook, the campaign shows a smiling woman with black face make-up, bright pink lipstick and a jet black 1950s-style beehive hairdo holding up a bitten black doughnut. The slogan in Thai reads: "Break every rule of deliciousness."
New York-based Human Rights Watch said it was shocked to see an American brand name running an advertising campaign that would draw "howls of outrage" if released in the United States.
Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch said:
It's both bizarre and racist that Dunkin' Donuts thinks that it must colour a woman's skin black and accentuate her lips with bright pink lipstick to sell a chocolate doughnut.
Dunkin' Donuts should immediately withdraw this ad, publicly apologise to those it's offended and ensure this never happens again.
Hours before the apology was issued by Dunkin' Donuts headquarters, the company's chief executive in Thailand dismissed the criticism as "paranoid American thinking".
Nadim Salhani, a Lebanese expatriate in Thailand said:
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?
I'm sorry, but this is a marketing campaign, and it's working very well for us.
Mr Salhani added that his teenage daughter was the model featured in the campaign.