The fast food chain is facing heat over an advertisement out of New Zealand

By Rachel DeSantis
April 08, 2019 05:16 PM
Burger King New Zealand

Burger King is facing heat over an advertisement out of New Zealand that shows diners attempting to chow down on burgers using oversized chopsticks.

The ad for the chain’s new Vietnamese Sweet Chilli Tendercrisp burger went viral this weekend after Maria Mo, a Korean New Zealander, shared her thought on Twitter after viewing the ad on Instagram.

“So this is the new Burger King ad for a ‘Vietnamese’ burger ok coolcoolcoolcoolcool CHOPSTICKS R HILARIOUS right omg etc 🙃🙃🙃🙃🙃🙃,” she wrote.

“I’m so sick of racism. Of any kind. Of the kind that makes fun of different cultures, to the king that shoots and murders those peacefully praying in their place of worship. Say no to every single manifestation of it,” she wrote, while also asking for an apology from the company.

She later sarcastically added, “This is how Asians eeeeeeeat. Orientalism is harmless funnnn.”

Mo told the HuffPost that she initially found the ad shocking, as it appeared to mock the way chopsticks are typically used to eat traditional Asian foods.

“Because I couldn’t believe such blatantly ignorant ads are still happening in 2019, it honestly took me a second to work out what the heck I was looking at,” she said. “[People of color] are constantly having to deal with microaggressions as well as outright hatred and it just never ends… And I could not believe that such a concept was approved for such a big, well-known company. It says a lot [about] what kind of demographics they must employ across the board for their ads.”

The ad drew a slew of negative responses on social media, including from comedian Jenny Yang, who wrote, “What the hell is wrong [with] white [people]… We’re not asking for much. Sometimes just decide to DO LESS.”

“How did this ever get approved to be released in New Zealand… it is 2019 correct???” wrote Koreen Liew-Young, who identifies herself as a Chinese New Zealander on Twitter. “I’m pretty appalled and think this campaign was incredibly dumb #burgerking #badmarketing #thisisus #notok #getittogether.”

Added user Eric Vo, “Adding sweet chili to a chicken sandwich DOES NOT make it ‘Vietnamese’ Using chopsticks as a gag does not make your ad more ‘authentic.’”

In a statement to PEOPLE, the company said: “The ad in question is insensitive and does not reflect our brand values regarding diversity and inclusion. We have asked our franchisee in New Zealand to remove the ad immediately.”

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James Woodbridge, Burger King NZ’s Chief Marketing Officer, said in a statement to the New Zealand Herald that the ad has since been removed.

“We are truly sorry that the ad has appeared insensitive to our community,” Woodbridge said. “We have removed and it certainly does not reflect our brand values around diversity and inclusion.”

The Herald reports the ad was previously pulled from television in March after the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that it was “enticing people to overeat,” as the ad ended with, “Just need another three.” It was, however, still being promoted on social media.

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The backlash echoes a Dolce & Gabbana ad that briefly ran in November, which featured an Asian woman struggling to eat pizza, spaghetti and cannoli with chopsticks.

A Mandarin voice-over also incorrectly pronounced the brand’s name on purpose, apparently mocking Chinese speech.

Criticism was so strong that the fashion label was forced to cancel a major show in Shanghai – the same show the ad was promoting.