If you don't already know who Anil Dash is, you will one day soon. Perhaps you'll hear a cautionary tale of a brand that got its hand slapped for funning with race and ethnicity. Or about a super-celebrity-actor-social-media-shepherd donning "brownface" to sell "junk food." Or about how an Indian American new-media sherpa used his social muscle to set an almost-famous brand and its full-on famous spokesperson straight.
Here's what you might not have heard unless you actually got through the entirety of Mr. Dash's condemnation/manifesto. (Condemnifesto?)
He didn't stop at pantsing Popchips or Minister Ashton Kutcher; he chased down the agencies, too. (Zambezi.) He also cleverly retweeted the PR shop's knee-jerk defense of the work. (Alison Brod PR.) (PR shops should be the last ones making mistakes like this, no?) And because blood's not enough in the blogoshpere — you need bone to really make it media — Mr. Dash all but screamed for the spiked heads of the creatives behind the work.
For those of you who knew Anil Dash before he lit this flame, you know he's a smart lad. A guru-super-shepherd in his own right with more A-list followers than most of us will recognize, he's full of upstart perspective on everything technology. He's also a damn decent writer with a singular voice and, clearly, he's got an eye for the interesting.
Did he do himself any favors by jumping out in front of his 400,000+ sheep and taking a position against Popchips and Ashton Kutcher? According to his Twitter feed, he's earned nearly as many death threats and angry emails as he has new followers. Did he really do any damage to the brand for "making a racist ad"? Popchips has a solid product and a stand-up brand that was upswinging anyway; since Mr. Dash's condeminifesto, they bask in the bittersweet but much sought-after glow of a space in the the illusive "conversation." As their "racist ad" is approaches two million views on youtube.
Thanks to Mr. Dash, Popchips is now as famous as their spokesperson. If you scour the comments to all the articles that have been written about Dash's brand bash, you'll find that most think his position is full of sh*t. If you've seen the spot, you might find that it's funny, well-delivered, and fitting for a campaign that counts on its spokesperson — an actor — to act. (The other characters he plays in the campaign are also stereotypes and just as entertaining.)
From where I sit, ideawriter and Indian American, I'm left with three thoughts.
1. Popchips wins. Ashton wins. Anil Dash wins. Indians lose because now that Popchips pulled the spot, they (we) come off looking like a hyper-sensitive bunch of brown crybaby-b*tches who can't take a joke.
2. Perhaps, for a brand, scoring in social media is most quickly achieved by setting off a bomb. The key would be to know how to do it without blowing your own head off, I suppose. To that extent, Popchips scored big.
3. Popchips should introduce a line of Indian flavors. (Dash of Vindaloo? Bollywood Masala? Kutcher Korma?)