St. Hubert, Quebec's popular greasy chicken chain, hit a sour note with many viewers as they poked fun at Chinese-Canadians in a recent ad:
Being tone-deaf when it comes to stereotypes is one thing. It just shows marketers being out of touch with modern multiculturalism. When this happens, you learn from it. You acknowledge fault, offer a sincere apology, and move on having learned an important lesson.
What you do not do is issue a defensive non-apology (via CBC):
“We truly apologize if this television advertisement has offended or insulted you. At no time did we want to portray the Chinese community in a negative way, and we don't believe that we have done so.
We simply wanted to show the impact that our new offer has on the competition. We chose a Chinese restaurant because there are hundreds in Quebec. This is not a question of stereotyping as it is in fact, a reality.
Furthermore, the actors who played in the advertisement agreed to do so good-heartedly and knowingly, without ever feeling exploited, insulted or ridiculed.
Thank you for your understanding and again, we are sorry you felt that this advertisement was demeaning to the Asian community.”This was in response to Montreal citizen Cathy Wong, who sent a complaint letter to St. Hub, and later articulated her position to the local media:
“The ad irritates me because the storyline is based on a false competition between Chinese restaurants and local product, and uses stereotypes from a minority group to brand St-Hubert’s products as cool and funny... “It is not a negative stereotype, but because the fact that there are so [few] Chinese on TV and every time that they go on TV, we see them in cliché roles, and those stereotypes are extremely lazy or reductive and they’re repeated constantly. They’re so deeply rooted in popular culture that we actually use them as punchlines to sell, and that’s exactly what bothers me about this publicity.”
In other words, it's lazy creative that is insulting to both the Chinese-Canadian community and to our collective intelligence as a modern, diverse society.
The Chinese Canadian National Council and the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations plan to submit a formal complaint to St-Hubert,asking the company to pull the ad and issue a real apology.
Meanwhile, we ad people can hang our heads in shame over the thought of how little social progress we've made as an industry: