Fast food chain faced backlash over ad showing westerners trying to eat new ‘Vietnamese’ burger with giant chopsticks
Burger King has been forced to delete a “culturally insensitive” advert which depicted a westerner struggling to eat a burger with chopsticks, the latest western brand to be accused of mocking Asian food customs.
The fast food chain faced a huge online backlash after an advert was posted to Burger King New Zealand’s Instagram depicting westerners attempting to eat the new “Vietnamese Sweet Chilli Tendercrisp Burger” with comically giant red chopsticks.
The advert, which appeared to feature no one Vietnamese, was captioned: “Take your taste buds all the way to Ho Chi Minh City.”
However, the post was later deleted after a post condemning the advert as offensive and culturally insensitive went viral, attracting over 2.7m views, and led to an outpouring of criticism that Burger King was making a mockery of chopsticks and Asian customs.
“Chopsticks are hilarious right,” sarcastically tweeted Maria Mo, a New Zealander who was among those to first flag the advert.
She added: “I’m so sick of racism. Of any kind. Of the kind that makes fun of different cultures, to the kind that shoots and murders those peacefully praying in their place of worship. Say no to every single manifestation of it.”
“We have asked our franchisee in New Zealand to remove the ad immediately,” said Burger King in a statement on Monday night.
The food chain apologized, conceding the advert was “insensitive and does not reflect our brand values regarding diversity and inclusion.”
Others pointed out that the burger’s signature ingredient of sweet chilli sauce was much more common in neighboring Thailand than Vietnam.
Burger King are not the first western company to be accused of mocking and trivialising the culture of Asian countries in their marketing material.
Just last year Italian fashion brand Dolce and Gabbana were accused of racism and racial stereotyping after they published a video on the Chinese social media site Weibo showing a Chinese model using chopsticks to try to eat a pizza, a cannoli and spaghetti. The backlash in China was so huge that some Chinese websites and shops stopped selling Dolce and Gabbana products.
The offensive advert could prove equally damaging to Burger King’s presence in Asia. While the fast food chain has failed to gain traction in Vietnam, regionally is very popular, as the biggest US food chain in Malaysia and the second biggest in Thailand and Indonesia. The company has plans to expand to 1,000 new locations in China.
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By Hannah Ellis-Petersen South east Asia correspondent, The Guardian