But the head of the chain's Thai franchise, which operates independently from the U.S,-based Dunkin' Donuts, dismissed the criticism as "paranoid American thinking."
The Dunkin' Donuts franchise in Thailand launched a campaign this month for its new "Charcoal Donut" featuring the image, which is reminiscent of 19th and early 20th century American stereotypes for black people that are now considered offensive.
In posters and TV commercials, the campaign shows the woman with a shiny jet black, 1950s-style beehive hairdo, holding a bitten black doughnut alongside the slogan: "Break every rule of deliciousness."
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.
"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 campaign hasn't ruffled many in Thailand, where it's common for advertisements to inexplicably use racial stereotypes. A Thai brand of household mops and dustpans called "Black Man" uses a logo with a smiling black man in a tuxedo and bow tie. One Thai skin whitening cream runs TV commercials that say white-skinned people have better job prospects than those with dark skin. An herbal Thai toothpaste says its dark-colored product "is black, but it's good."
The head of Dunkin' Donuts in Thailand dismissed the criticism as "paranoid American thinking."
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