The Saudi Arabian call to boycott Pizza Hut over advert

Pizza Hut Saudi Arabia Image copyright Pizza Hut Saudi/Twitter

Pizza Hut in Saudi Arabia has been forced to apologise after the restaurant chain's Twitter account published an advertisement which appears to mock people with a speech impediment on International Stammering Awareness Day.

The advert began with the hashtag #Global_Day_of_Stammering and introduced an offer for pizza, but punctuated the accompanying message with repeated letters and syllables to mimic a stammer or stutter.

Arab social media users took to Twitter to express their outrage at the restaurant chain by using the Arabic-language hashtag #I_am_boycotting_Pizza_Hut which has been used more than 48,000 times since Sunday.

One post reads: "I stutter and this is so insensitive."

Another warned: "If your marketing is cheap, you will pay a high price for the boycott."

However there were some who did not support a boycott, and instead called for Pizza Hut "to apologise and work on supporting those who suffer from stammering."

While another tweeted about what she believed were the double standards some people held: "We get upset over a satirical ad when we're a satirical society which makes fun of everything. We live on making fun of people and then ask brands and companies to promote their products with exaggerated, ideal, morality."

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Pizza Hut's original tweet with the offending advert has now been deleted, but Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Trade and Investment posted a screenshot of it on its own Twitter account, confirming the advert was a violation of its rules.

It also added "necessary measures" would be taken against the company.

Pizza Hut has apologised for what it described as an "irresponsible tweet against a section of society we hold dear."

The company also said measures had been taken against the person responsible for the advert and it would work to support people who stammer.

This is not the first time a Pizza Hut advert has caused controversy in the Middle East in recent months. In May, Pizza Hut in Israel was criticised for mocking Palestinian hunger strikes.

Image copyright Twitter/@MohamdNashwan
Image caption The Israeli Pizza Hut Facebook post - now deleted - Photoshopped a pizza box into hunger striker Marwan Barghouti's cell

The offending advert used an image from an Israeli prison authority video purportedly showing jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti secretly eating in his cell during a mass hunger strike.

Many social media users across the region responded with calls to boycott the company.

However, the restaurant chain is not alone among corporations with advertising troubles of late.

Earlier this month skincare brand Dove apologised after a Facebook advert appeared to show a black woman turning white after using their lotion. A screenshot from part of the advert was widely shared by social media users amid accusations of racism and white washing.

In contrast, both KFC, on Twitter, and Polish auction website Allegro, on Facebook, have been praised for their advertising on social media.

Among the fans of KFC's tongue-in-cheek social media presence was an interesting observation by an astute Twitter user last week:

The post has been retweeted more than 300,000 times.

"They must have a seasoned marketing person," read one post. While another suggested: "The person that runs the KFC account needs a raise. I don't care how much money they make now. Give them a raise."

Additional reporting by Victoria Bisset, BBC Monitoring