Popchips, makers of the quite delicious popped (not fried) snacks, made a very distasteful ad starring Ashton Kutcher that the company founder is now apologizing for after a very swift and negative Internet reaction.
The ad, which is strangely set in some sort of dating service situation, opens with Kutcher, the brand’s “president of pop culture,” in brownface and a dhoti doing a very bad Indian accent. Immediately, people took to the Web to tell Popchips that the ad is racist.
Keith Belling, the CEO and founder of Popchips, has now issued an apology, saying the ad was supposed to be a “light-hearted parody” and the company “did not intend to offend anyone.” (No word from Kutcher at this point.) Reports say the ad has also been pulled from all of Popchips’ online pages, but you can still catch a glimpse of the character in this ad, which is also still on its Facebook page. The campaign cost the company $1.5 million and Alison Brod Public Relations is handling the PR duties, according to The New York Times.
Anil Dash, a blogger and entrepreneur, shared his thoughts about where he thinks the campaign went wrong. He suggests that the ad shouldn’t be pulled down, but rather left online with an explanation of where it came from and why it failed. (Note: Brownface is never acceptable. And Ashton Kutcher isn’t funny.) He also says the ad agency, Zambezi, should take ownership of the ad, and Alison Brod should take responsibility for not protecting their client.
Finally, he calls out the media who covered the ad without recognizing how offensive the Raj character is. Jezebel also notes that glaring media oversight.