Burger King New Zealand has removed a controversial campaign after it was criticized for being "racist" on social media.
The ad, which aired in New Zealand, featured several fast-food customers attempting – and failing – to eat the chain's new Vietnamese Sweet Chili Tendercrisp chicken sandwich using giant chopsticks. On social media, the ad was accompanied by a caption reading, “Take your taste buds all the way to Ho Chi Minh City with our Vietnamese Sweet Chili Tendercrisp, part of our Tastes of the World range. Available for a limited time only."
"We are truly sorry that the ad has appeared insensitive to our community," said James Woodbridge, Burger King New Zealand's general manager of marketing, in a statement to The New Zealand Herald. "We have removed it and it certainly does not reflect our brand values around diversity and inclusion," he said.
In an earlier statement to Fox News, a spokesperson for Burger King 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.”
Backlash over the ad began bubbling up on social media earlier this month, following a viral tweet that called out the commercial for trying to joke about customers having difficulty using chopsticks.
"So this is the new Burger King ad for a 'Vietnamese' burger," wrote Maria Mo, a Korean New Zealander, along with a video of the commercial. Mo then added a sarcastic, "OK, coolcoolcool, chopsticks r HILARIOUS right omg etc."
Soon after Mo posted the video, it went viral, pulling in over 2 million views as of Sunday afternoon, and garnering hundreds of comments from Twitter users expressing their own outrage at the company’s approval of the ad.
Mo told HuffPost she decided to post the video because she was shocked to see it in the first place.
“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,” Mo told HuffPost in a message.
“[People of color] are constantly having to deal with microaggressions as well as outright hatred and it just never ends,” she added.
According to the New Zealand Herald, the ad had only been appearing on social media since March, after having been pulled from television by the Advertising Standards Authority for a different reason altogether: "Enticing people to overeat."
The ad will now reportedly be scrapped altogether.
This is not the first time brands have been called out for being culturally insensitive when using chopsticks in marketing campaigns.
In November, Dolce & Gabbana apologized after receiving backlash for a series of “racist” ads that used an Asian model using chopsticks to eat pizza and other Italian foods.
In 2017, the New York Times came under fire for its inappropriate positioning of chopsticks in a photograph announcing the yet-to-be opened “Asian-inspired” steak house, Jade Sixty. Twitter pointed out the chopsticks were placed in an upright manner — a chopsticks etiquette faux pas in Japanese culture, as upright chopsticks indicate death or suggest a funeral offering. The New York Times replaced the photo to one without chopsticks.
Michael Bartiromo contributed to this report.