- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

MEXICO CITY (AP) - Burger King is saying “have it your way” after the Mexican government complained about an ad campaign featuring a diminutive wrestler dressed in a cape resembling a Mexican flag.

The company pledged Tuesday to pull the ads for its chili-flavored “Texican” hamburger, saying they were “not intended to offend anyone.”

“BKC (Burger King Corp.) has made the decision to revise the Texican Whopper advertising creative out of respect for the Mexican culture and its people,” the company said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.

Burger King, which is known for its signature Whopper hamburger, said it would air redesigned ads “as soon as commercially possible.”

“The revised campaign will focus solely on the Texican Whopper sandwich and will not feature any characters or the use of the Mexican flag,” the company said.

Print ads that ran in Spain prompted the Mexican ambassador there to ask Burger King officials to withdraw them, saying they “improperly use the stereotyped image of a Mexican.”

The TV spots depict the Mexican wrestler teaming up with a lanky American cowboy almost twice his height to illustrate the cross-border blend of flavors.

“The taste of Texas with a little spicy Mexican,” a narrator’s voice says.

The two become roommates, and the taller cowboy boosts the wrestler up to reach high shelves and helps clean tall windows, while the Mexican helps the cowboy open a jar.

“It was our intention to promote a product whose culinary origin lies in both the American and Mexican cultures, and was meant to appeal to those who enjoy the flavors and ingredients that each country offers,” the company said.

But the ads _ which Burger King says ran only in the Spain and the United Kingdom _ raised hackles in Mexico.

The newspaper La Jornada ran a front-page story under the headline “Denigrating advertising,” and said the ads “show Mexicans as notably inferior to all Americans.”

But an editorial cartoon in another Mexican newspaper, Reforma, showed a short Mexican dressed in a wrestler’s mask holding a hamburger, with the caption “The only thing more insulting than deceptive ads are the ones that expose the truth.” Both professional wrestling and fast food are popular in Mexico.

Mexico has very strict rules about using the flag. In 2008, the government fined a foreign-owned publishing house, Random House Mondadori SA, for showing disrespect to the country’s flag in a promotional video posted online.

But Burger King may not be subject to any potential fines since its ads did not run in Mexico. The company said “the existing campaign falls fully within the legal parameters of the United Kingdom and Spain where the commercials are being aired.”

It is not the first time that fast-food outlets have offended Mexican sensibilities.

Mexicans and other Hispanics in the United States objected to a Taco Bell ad from the 1990s that featured a pint-sized talking Chihuahua that spoke with a Mexican accent.

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