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Ashton Kutcher advert pulled after racism outcry (+video)

Ashton Kutcher has teamed up with snack food company Popchips for a series of fake dating service adverts. Photo / AP
Ashton Kutcher has teamed up with snack food company Popchips for a series of fake dating service adverts. Photo / AP

Update: Popchips CEO Keith Belling says the Bollywood character Raj has been removed from the company's planned outdoor advertising campaign.

"We are removing the individual Bollywood character from our out-of-home advertising campaign that launches on May 7," Belling tells E! News.

The video featuring the character has also been scrapped from the company's
official YouTube channel and Facebook page.

Previously...

A spoof online dating advert featuring Ashton Kutcher has been pulled after viewers slammed it as racist.

The Two and a Half Men star has teamed up with snack food company Popchips for a series of fake dating service adverts, all aimed at plugging the brand's potato chip product.

Kutcher, 34, appears as a number of stereotypical characters - all of them, naturally, fans of Popchips - looking for romance through the fictional "World Wide Lovers" dating service: He plays Nigel, who says he's looking for "higher planes of consciousness", a flamboyant Karl Lagerfeld look-alike, and Swordfish, a tattooed Southerner.

Kutcher also appears as himself and deadpans to the camera, "Your waiting room's like a freak show. Are we all in the same category?" followed by the tag line: "Life is Short. Find Your Perfect Match."

In one particular video, Kutcher, in brown make up, takes on the role of Raj, a Bollywood producer with a thick accent who is "looking for the most delicious thing on the planet," and specifically "Kardashian hot...I would give that dog a bone."

The ad unleashed a torrent of criticism after it debuted online yesterday.

Tech blogger Anil Dash called for an apology from Popchips and Kutcher.

"Hey, startups that are helping @aplusk get richer, can you tell him that racist brownface ads aren't cool? Thanks!" he tweeted.

"Aside from an obligatory 'We apologise if anyone was offended,' I'm curious about all the people who had to have given approval earlier," Dash wrote.

He also took to his blog to level criticism at the ad and its makers.

"Don't watch it; It's 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 wrote.

"Naturally, a bunch of us (initially mostly Indian diaspora members whom I follow on Twitter) started complaining about it, and a number of like-minded allies also registered their offense as 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."

New York hip-hop group Das Racist called Kutcher out on Twitter over the video, urging their followers to complain.

"Hey @aplusk, what's with the racist brownface video you talentless, pretending to care about sex trafficking piece of sh*t?" they wrote.

"Hey if you care, call popchips at 18662179327, hit 2 and register your concern, they got to pull this sh*t and apologise, that's it," the group tweeted.

A YouTube user also chimed in: "LOL @ Ashton thinking he could become relevant again by putting on racist brownface, acting like Indian men are all creepers (who moustaches), and attempting caricatures of popular filmy dances. How mid-twentieth century! How cute! Very impressed."

Wrote another: "The most offensive part is when Ashton Kutcher thought he was funny."

But not all the reaction has been negative.

Reality TV queen Kim Kardashian gave the ad her thumbs up.

"LOL @aplusk! Love this... "Kardashian hot," she tweeted.

Chimed American Idol host Ryan Seacrest on Twitter: "Now it's official... @aplusk is definitely dating again", while linking to the series of videos in the ad campaign.

A spokeswoman for Popchips has since issued a statement responding to the criticism.

"The new popchips worldwide dating video and ad campaign featuring four characters was created to provoke a few laughs and was never indented to stereotype or offend anyone," the rep said, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

"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."

Popchips CEO Keith Belling also issued an apology.

"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," he wrote.

"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 apologise to anyone we offended."

The video of Kutcher as Raj has since been turned to private access on YouTube, but the video can still be seen - at the time of writing this post at least - here.

Failing that, you can catch a glimpse of the character in question in the compilation video below:

You can check out the other ads in the campaign here.

A spokeswoman for Kutcher has yet to comment.

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