In case you missed the social media furore of the past few days (and as briefly as possible so as not to bore the rest of you) Mr Kutcher starred as a 'comedy' Indian character in an ill-advised YouTube commercial for Popchips. Tech guru Anil Dash objected on his blog to what he - and many others - saw as the inherent racism of such a protrayal, and the social media debate was unleashed.
Anil Dash didn't want apologies, or even the withdrawal of the video.
He was after what some would regard as blood: the film left up and linked to, not an apology, but a full explanation from everyone involved in conceiving, making, promoting and reviewing the commercial as to what on earth they were thinking of. It "revealed a much larger, more complex problem with their company and with the ecosystem of people and companies that they partner with,"
Anil wrote on his blog.
His success has so far been mixed: he got a private and a public apology from Popchips founder Keith Belling; but the video was made private on Youtube, against his wishes. And nothing from any of the other culprits in the affair, not even the normally twitter-loving Kutcher. The offending character will be withdrawn from the upcoming outdoor campaign, but the public apology from Popchips does look rather rather like the kind of lame response that Anil said he specifically didn't want: "the usual mumbled apology for the company where they offer the bullshit non-apology apology of saying "We're sorry if anyone was offended" and then take the ad down, but continue on with the campaign, padding out the apology with a few generic tweets to a contrite blog post."
The debates, references, rehashings and picking apart of the Ashton Kutcher controversy are still wriggling around the interweb like maggots on a corpse. Here are the ladies from The View talking it over
, and Sharon Osborne putting in her ha'penny worth
So, what are we to learn from this (apart from the fact that Keith Belling types onehandedly)?
1. Before you go ahead with your idea of a hilarious campaign, run it past a few people of varying social, racial and cultural backgrounds first.
Your bezzy mates in the office may not be the best people to tell you want is and what is not potentially offensive (though I confess here to being gobsmacked that no-one in the entire process thought that browning up Kutcher was a bad idea. Perhaps they all grew up on It Ain't Half Hot Mum
and The Black and White Minstrel Show?
2. If you want to go viral, create a scandal I have no idea how much the PR value of the coverage has been so far, but if Belling had wanted to put Popchips in everyone's mouth (sorry, couldn't resist the pun) he couldn't have planned it better. I'd be really interested to look at his sales charts over this period.
3. Social media protest goes a long way - but it can't change the world (yet). Anil Dash's list of demands was not a kneejerk response - he really wanted to make a difference. But to be honest, I don't think we are ready for him yet ... so, for now, lame apologies it still is.
4. Be careful of associations
- apparently, all of this reminded Demi Moore's publicist that it was past time to change her Twitter name
- from @mrskutcher to @justdemi ...