Perhaps brownface and offensive accents aren’t the best way to sell potato chips. Earlier today, an advertisement for Popchips starring Ashton Kutcher as an “Indian” man looking for love was taken down following an online outcry. While Popchips appears to have removed the ad from their Facebook page and YouTube channel, unofficial versions can still be seen.
In the ad, the “Two and a Half Men” star plays a Bollywood producer named Raj. He talks about his dating virtues in a sing-song accent with his face painted brown. Popchips, a potato chip snack, are not mentioned at any point. Three related ads feature Kutcher playing a diva, a hippie, and a biker.
Indian-Americans quickly bashed the ad and Kutcher, who serves as the brand’s “president of pop culture” and developed the $1.5 million ad campaign with Popchips’ CEO, the ad agency Zambezi, and Alison Brod PR.
On his blog, tech entrepreneur Anil Dash called the ad “a hackneyed, unfunny advertisement featuring Kutcher in brownface talking about his romantic options, with the entire punchline being that he’s doing it in a fake-Indian outfit and voice. That’s it, there’s seriously no other gag.”
He added, “if you find yourself putting brown makeup on a white person in 2012 so they can do a bad ‘funny’ accent in order to sell potato chips, you are on the wrong course. Make some different decisions.”
The indie hip-hop band Das Racist called out to Kutcher’s Twitter handle: “Hey @aplusk, what’s with the racist brownface video you talentless, pretending to care about sex trafficking piece of s**t?”
Dash later blogged that Popchips CEO Keith Belling offered him a “sincere and contrite” apology over the phone.
As for an official response to the outcry, a Popchips representative told ABCNews.com, “The new popchips worldwide dating parody featuring four characters was created to provoke a few laughs and was never intended to stereotype or offend anyone. At popchips we embrace all types of shapes, flavors and colors, and appreciate all snackers, no matter their race or ethnicity. We hope people can enjoy this in the spirit it was intended.”
Belling also apologized on the company’s blog, writing “i take full responsibility and apologize to anyone we offended.”
Kutcher has yet to tweet about or otherwise comment on the controversy.