Burger King New Zealand has removed a controversial ad showing diners attempting to eat burgers using oversized chopsticks.
The ad, which aired only in New Zealand as an effort to promote the chain's new Vietnamese Sweet Chilli Tendercrisp burger, showed several customers attempting to eat the new dish using giant chopsticks and was captioned by the chain online with, "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."
Controversy surrounding the "racist" advertisement was sparked after Twitter user Maria Mo, a Korean New Zealander, shared it on social media, writing, "coolcoolcoolcoolcool CHOPSTICKS R HILARIOUS right omg etc."
So this is the new Burger King ad for a “Vietnamese” burger ok coolcoolcoolcoolcool CHOPSTICKS R HILARIOUS right omg etc 🙃🙃🙃🙃🙃🙃 pic.twitter.com/zVD8CN04Wc— 마리아. Maria. (@mariahmocarey) April 4, 2019
"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 in a second tweet, adding that the chain's "silence is deafening."
Within hours, the video shared by Mo received more than 2 million views and the advertisement had drawn a slew of negative comments, with the backlash being picked up by numerous outlets.
"How did this ever get approved to be released in New Zealand… it is 2019 correct???" one person asked. "I'm pretty appalled and think this campaign was incredibly dumb."
"It's 2019, and we still have people walking around thinking 'subtle racism' is somehow funny..." another added.
"I can't believe companies actually still think things like this is even remotely funny or even able to sell," one person commented.
In response to the backlash, Burger Chain eventually made the decision to pull the ad.
"We are truly sorry that the ad has appeared insensitive to our community. We have removed it and it certainly does not reflect our brand values around diversity and inclusion," Burger King's general manager of marketing, James Woodbridge, told the New Zealand Herald.
In a statement to PEOPLE, the chain added that the ad was "insensitive" and "does not reflect our brand values."
"The ad in question is insensitive and does not reflect our brand values regarding diversity and inclusion," the statement read. "We have asked our franchisee in New Zealand to remove the ad immediately."