Somehow, Pop Chips thought a lazy ad campaign that employed Ashton Kutcher in brown-face make-up spoofing “a Bollywood producer” would be a funny proposition. It wasn’t.
Following an Internet outcry, the company pulled the clip of the character, “Raj”, from its official YouTube and Facebook pages, the New York Times reported. If you haven’t seen it, you didn’t miss anything (an abbreviated version exists here). The campaign featured Kutcher doing fake dating service videos dressed as four different characters–a stoner, a biker gang-type, a Karl Lagerfield-esque guy, and then Raj–all “bachelors” looking for love. They each got their own clips and all of them shared a penchant for a certain brand of potato chips.
While the other characters were mostly just unfunny one-dimensional cut-outs, having Ashton dress up give a canned Indian impression in brown-face came off tacky and pretty offensive. And everyone noticed. Kutcher, who at one point in time might’ve rattled off a series of tweets explaining his involvement, has apparently been quiet about the campaign. His Twitter account still links to the videos though.
Yesterday, Pop Chips had posted a sorry-for-offending, we just wanted to “provide a few laughs” apology. More interesting was the company’s response given to Anil Dash, a New York entrepreneur. As many others have noted, Dash wrote the most nuanced take on this whole mini-fiasco yesterday.
“I just got off the phone with Popchips founder Keith Belling, who was sincere and contrite as he offered a thoughtful, apologetic response,” he wrote on his blog, also saying that he was “cautiously optimistic” to see Pop Chips response. (One of the things that Dash suggested was to not pull the “Raj” ad and instead leave it up and explain why it was created.)
Since only Kutcher’s Raj character was pulled, the tainted campaign still lives on. At this point though, it’s anyone’s guess whether the company plans to continue rolling out “outdoor ads” and other promotions that the Times had previously reported were part of the original campaign.