By Arturo R. García
Yes, that’s Ashton Kutcher as “Raj” in the photo above. But besides being offensive, the ad–which was pulled from YouTube and Facebook Wednesday night–was misleading.
Kutcher’s ad, which was part a series of sketches where he played members of “World Wide Lovers,” led viewers to a Facebook app sponsored by Popchips,a potato chip brand based out of San Francisco. The connection is made clearest in another ad where Kutcher plays the equally problematic “Darl” and helps himself to some chips.
Kutcher isn’t just the company’s “president of pop,” as he’s listed on the company’s site – as Brandchannel’s Shirley Brady reported, he also owns a minority stock in Popchips, which also trumpets endorsements by the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Hope Solo and Jillian Michaels. And for most of the day Wednesday, the company was equally as bold in trumpeting Kutcher’s kooky quartet; they had been shown in the cover photo for Popchips’ Facebook page.
Rappers Das Racist came at Kutcher full-force on Twitter not long after the video gained traction, while entrepeneur Anil Dash had some pointed questions for the rest of the team behind the campaign:
According to Emily Banks at Mashable, Kutcher’s campaign “will include outdoor ads in Denver, LA, New York, Phoenix, Seattle, and San Francisco,” as well as a heavy presence on social media. But after watching Kutcher’s “performance,” why would anybody want to visit any site he was shilling for? In a rather kind gesture, Dash also penned a column offering Popchips and Kutcher advice on how to more forward after this debacle. One of his tips was that they not pull the campaign.
“I think this company doesn’t want its culture to be racist, and they can best demonstrate that by showing how they learn from examples where it happens despite their best efforts,” Dash wrote. “It’s like if rat droppings were found in a bag of Popchips: You wouldn’t solve it by saying ‘We threw away that bag of chips!’ You’d solve it by saying ‘Here’s what we’re doing to clean up things at the factory.’”
A rep for Popchips told the Associated Press the World Wide Lovers campaign was “created to provoke a few laughs and was never intended to stereotype or offend anyone,” adding that the company hoped “people can enjoy this in the spirit it was intended.”
Meanwhile, Kutcher, or whoever is tweeting for him these days–remember, this isn’t his first social media mistake–kept quiet on the issue all day Wednesday. But later in the day, Dash reported that he’d gotten a call from the company’s founder, Keith Bolling, who he said was “sincere and contrite” in apologizing.
“I’m cautiously optimistic to see the company’s response, and willing to give them time to do it properly,” Dash wrote. “Maybe we can get a good result.”
While Dash’s advice for Popchips was certainly magnanimous, it should also be said: you can’t clean up the rat droppings without throwing away the first bag in which you found them. So maybe it’s best for the public and “Raj” to break up: it’s really not us in this case. It’s him.