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Prejudice is a serious threat in the modern world, which prevents people from building healthy relations with each other. It stands on the way of healthy human communication, prevents people from learning about each other, and hinders the possibility of developing an objective perspective on various things. Prejudice can be linked to racism because people are often prejudiced toward individuals of a different race. An example can be seen with an ad Dunkin Donuts presented in Thailand. There, a white woman has her face painted black except for the lips that are bright pink. The commercial suggests that the new doughnut breaks all the rules of being delicious. Apparently, the advertisement is racist. Critics stated that it was discriminatory against black people having to paint the girl’s face black. Why paint? Why black? Why is the lipstick still pink then? People got many different questions regarding the strange and insulting message of the advertisement. The assumption is that the image is based on the belief used by advertisers that white people were more likable, so they used a new approach to portray a white person. In other words, they wanted to make a white person look very appealing and mesmerizing so customers would remember her, but the advertisers ended up hurting blacks instead. The psychological aspects of prejudice, which are relevant for the Dunkin’ Donut advertisement, as well as the consequences of racist ads shall be discussed in this paper.
Firstly, one would like to focus on sociality of prejudices that is an important part of its psychological influence. According to John Duckitt (1994), who has been analyzing the psychological concepts of prejudice, the problem with prejudices is that they can be easily applied and modified to various situations. In other words, Duckitt (1994) stated that prejudices could be changed and used by a person thanks to their ambiguity. The prejudices do not have borders and can evolve through time. Therefore, even if the person has changed, he or she could keep the past prejudices.
The advertisement shows the ambiguity of prejudices through the portrayal of a woman. Despite the developments in the modern world toward improving the interracial relations, there are still some prejudices, which mutate, change, and transform depending on the situation. In fact, the advertisement under analysis showed that many people currently believed that whites were more attractive. In addition, it proved that people expect some sort of multiracial characteristics for a person to be more appealing.
The second psychological concept related to prejudices is stereotyping. It is when people have their own beliefs about others, which form the general opinion. Stereotypes are connected to prejudices because they affect the person’s interaction with other people. Therefore, Dunkin’ Donut ad uses a stereotypical perception. According to Patricia Devine (1989), who analyzed stereotypes, a person becomes so attached to them that he or she uses them constantly. Whenever one sees something stereotypical, he or she automatically responds. The doughnut ad used primitive stereotypes that people could have toward blacks and whites. Society has some stereotypes about the looks of white women, so the advertisers could be targeting such group, or they could be focused on the group with stereotypes toward blacks. Either way, the ad aimed to play on people’s stereotypes people.
Lastly,the ad is also racist because it manipulates self-image as an important psychological concept connected to prejudices. According to Steven Fein and Steven Spencer (1997), people often prejudice others as a way to affirm their selves. It was a tool to make a person fell better about oneself by means of derogating somebody else (Fein, & Spencer, 1997). It does not exactly require a person to insult others in order to improve one’s self-image, but admit and exaggerate somebody else’s faults. Hence, the ad of doughnuts played on the self-image as a way to attract customers, but also strengthened the prejudices they had. People watched a girl with the painted face, and they felt the irony and mockery toward black people. Those who had low self-esteem could use such imagery as a tool to make fun of the girl or blacks and feel better about themselves for not having a black color of skin. Despite such method is primitive, it worked rather well intriguing many people.
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Hence, one can see that there were different psychological concepts used in the commercial, such as self-image, stereotyping, and the ambiguity of prejudices.
The Dunkin’ Donut ad caused many consequences for the company, the consumers, and the critics. First of all, the company issued an official apology, following a huge publicity. Nevertheless, it is important to speak about the consequences that the racist ad could have on an average consumer. He or she could have thought that there was nothing wrong about being racist. A consumer could also strengthen the stereotypes one used to have. Nevertheless, the ad could have positive consequences, too. A good real-life example is the usage of such an advertisement to label racism and discrimination and show how damaging they are (Murji, 2006). In other words, such advertisement could be used in anti-racism campaign in order to show the negative influences of racism. A person would see the criticism the ad received, so he or she would not want to face the same level of judgment. Hence, an individual may choose a different way to behave oneself by not being prejudiced, racist, or stereotypical and avoid the mistakes advertisers made.
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The Dunkin’ Donut advertisement is a good example of intended use of psychological concepts and principles in order to receive a wanted feedback. According to research by Johnson and Grier (2012), many advertisers constructed their ads in racist way in order to target special audience groups. Therefore, the aforementioned ad serves as a proof of special targeting. Nevertheless, just because it was a marketing strategy does not justify its faults. The ad was racist offending the black people and leaving whites in a complicated position.
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