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Part of an ad for the China Times Restaurant in Dubai created by DDB Dubai.

A new advertising campaign for the China Times restaurant in Dubai is raising eyebrows in North America. The print ads, created by DDB Dubai, include a black man in a business suit and an Indian man wearing a pagari, or Indian turban. (To see the full ads, click here.)

That's where the cultural sensitivity ends. The men's eyes have been replaced, through the magic of Photoshop, with eyes that have an epicanthic fold – a less-than-subtle way of setting up the tagline: "China Times Brings Out the Chinese in Everyone."

Are these ads another example of Asian stereotyping (we're pointing at you, Tiger Mom meme) or an even more insidious trend – lame advertising?

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"This is terrible," wrote one commentator on Gawker. "Graphics should've totally yellow up the skin tone to make the point crystal clear." Added another, "If I scrunch my eyes up really hard … and look really close at the ad, it's … still not funny."

It's also not original. The concept appears to be an ill-advised nod to a classic campaign for rye bread created by DDB founder Bill Bernbach, named by Ad Age as the 20th century's most influential ad man. It featured people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, happily un-Photoshopped and eating a smoked meat sandwich, with the tagline: "You don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's."

According to New York blogger Copyranter, a veteran creative director, DDB Dubai took the same basic idea and flip-flopped it execution-wise.

As Confucius says, "By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart."

Do you find these ads offensive? Are they in bad taste – or just bad, period?

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About the Author

Shelley Youngblut is the Western Editor of The Globe and Mail (and the mother of identical twins). The former editor of Calgary’s award-winning Swerve magazine, she is a veteran of ESPN the Magazine, and has commented on pop culture on ABC, CTV and CBC Radio. More

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