A new Burger King advert aired in New Zealand has sparked debate on the internet and the company has since decided to remove it and offer an apology. The advert, for a new Vietnamese burger that the fast food giant has recently launched, showed western people trying to eat a burger with oversized chopsticks.
As soon as the advert was launched, clips of it appeared on social media and people began questioning whether the content is acceptable or not. The original clip, which has been viewed over 2.9 million times so far, was posted by a Korean woman living in New Zealand.
In her thread, she accused Burger King of making fun of Asian culture and belittling it, describing the video as racist. The post immediately blew up and lots more people responded to echo the view that Burger King was being racially insensitive by posting the advert. It was compared to a recent scandal involving Dolce and Gabbana after they ran an advert campaign titled #DGLovesChina which some saw as a making a mockery of Chinese culture and heritage.
But not everybody agrees that the Burger King ad should have been taken down and there are a lot of people that think it’s just a bit of harmless fun. They argue that the advert isn’t poking fun at Asian culture, it’s doing the opposite. Instead, they say, the advert is making fun of westerners and their inability to use chopsticks.
Naturally, this debate is feeding into the wider debate around political correctness that is so often fought in the online world. A lot of the responses claim that we live in a culture of being offended and it’s impossible for anybody, whether they’re a big corporation or not, to say anything without offending somebody.
There have been a lot of recent scandals about the ethics of advertising and it seems that companies are in very dangerous territory. The Gillette advert that attempted to tackle issues around the treatment of women and toxic masculinity came under fire from a lot of people that claimed it blamed all men for issues around gender and an advert that portrayed women in the same light would not have been allowed. Others believed that it handled the issue well and it didn’t attempt to demonize men.
The travel company Megabus have also come under fire recently, though not because of their portrayal of social issues. The company is known for offering £1 fares to certain destinations but it was found that they were only selling a single ticket per bus journey, so their advertising was misleading. Advertising standards agencies decided that £1 MegaBus tickets banned across all of their adverts was the best solution. This is yet another example of a company struggling to walk an ethical line with their advertising.
There have been a string of these scandals in recent months and the issue of ethics in advertising is becoming a hot topic. Should companies steer clear of social issues in their advertising and do we need tighter ethical controls on what they are allowed to show, or is it just people overreacting on social media?