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Ashton Kutcher’s Popchips flop (updated)

As soon as I finished watching the new Popchips commercial starring Ashton Kutcher as an Indian man, I thought, “I need to save a copy of this video immediately, because it’s going to be deleted from the Internet fast.” The video was gone before I had the chance.

(Update, 5/3: Popchips has apologized for the ad. See below.)

To sum up the video (which used to be on YouTube here): Ashton Kutcher, the white actor, is dressed up in brown makeup and a shiny blue shirt. He speaks about his life as a Bollywood movie producer and his search for the right romantic partner, as if it’s a personal ad. It’s all done in a stereotypical Indian accent–and it’s actually worse than whatever you’re currently imagining in your head. Nothing about it is funny.

The spot was created by Zambezi Los Angeles and is part of a campaign starring Kutcher as four different characters in search of love. The campaign broke Wednesday and was promoted on Twitter by various celebrities.

While the main video starring Kutcher’s character “Raj” is down, clips of the character appear in this video, which is still live as of this posting:

(Keep in mind there used to be an entire video, over a minute long, with nothing but Raj, which I can’t show you since Popchips pulled it from YouTube.)

Even if the “Raj” commercial was the product of warm hearts and good intentions, the final product was so offensive it should never have been released. It makes a strong contender for worst commercial of the decade.

Anil Dash, slamming the ad on his blog earlier today, sums it up well:

“I can’t imagine I have to explain this to anyone in 2012, but 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 outcry on social media against this ad was swift and brutal. Before it was disabled on YouTube, the bad ad had several hundred thumbs-down votes, compared to just a few dozen thumbs up. Some complainers, notably the musical act Das Racist (if unfamiliar, don’t be distracted by their name), specifically called out The New York Times advertising reporter Stuart Elliott for writing a straight story about the campaign without flagging it as racist. (See second update below.)

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Update: Keith Belling, the CEO of Popchips, issued this statement (in all lowercase letters) Wednesday evening in response to the complaints about the commercial:

“we received a lot feedback about the dating campaign parody we launched today and appreciate everyone who took the time to share their point of view. our team worked hard to create a light-hearted parody featuring a variety of characters that was meant to provide a few laughs. we did not intend to offend anyone. i take full responsibility and apologize to anyone we offended.”

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Update 2: Stuart Elliott is on it: Popchips Pulls Ashton Kutcher Ad Over Charges of Racism.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising, Complaints

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