A new Burger King commercial has caused controversy this week after some viewers criticised it for mocking the use of chopsticks. The video, which has since been removed from the company’s social media channels - though is still visible on Twitter - aired in New Zealand and featured a series of diners attempting to eat the chain’s new South Asian inspired sandwich with giant chopsticks.
The burger in question, described as a Vietnamese Sweet Chili Tendercrisp, originally aired in a sponsored Instagram post, before being hastily removed by organisation. The clip at the centre of dispute was captioned, “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.”
However innocent Burger King’s intentions may have been, the video spawned an almost immediate backlash, especially from the Asian community. In an interview with The Huffington Post, Korean New Zealander Maria Mo described her shock at seeing the advert. “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 wrote in a message, adding, “I was watching it thinking there must be some kind of layered twist ― only to realise, no, there was no twist, it really was that base level.”
As a response to the video, Mo decided to share it on her own channel, accompanied with the ironic caption, “So this is the new Burger King ad for a “Vietnamese” burger ok coolcoolcoolcoolcool CHOPSTICKS R HILARIOUS right omg etc (sic).” According to Mo, it has since been seen an additional 120,000 times, with many viewers voicing their own outrage and solidarity with Mo’s decision to call out the company.
Discussing her reaction further with the Huffington Post, Mo, a classical pianist by trade, described how she has grown increasingly frustrated with this type of stereotyping from brands such as Burger King. “I felt extremely fed up, and tired,” said Mo, elaborating that minorities, “are constantly having to deal with microaggressions as well as outright hatred and it just never ends...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.”
Burger King has since removed the offending material, and issued an official response on Monday evening, apologising for the controversy. “We have asked our franchisee in New Zealand to remove the ad immediately,” the brand said in a statement, while also conceding that the advert was “insensitive and does not reflect our brand values regarding diversity and inclusion.” How this story might affect the brand moving forward remains to be seen. It certainly doesn’t help a business that have previously publicly stated their intention to diversify operations into the Asian marketplace.