Ashton Kutcher is a former underwear model, television and movie actor, spouse to Demi Moore, replacement of Charlie Sheen, social good advocate, social media zealot and start-up investor.
It is the last descriptor which is causing a bit of controversy as he ever-so-subtly tried to promote his start-up investments on his new show CBS‘ Two and Half Men.
@aplusk as he is known on Twitter, slipped-in a little product placement for companies in which he has invested on his first appearance on the show. Logos of six companies including Foursquare, Hipmunk, GroupMe, Chegg and Flipboard appear as stickers on the back of his laptop in a scene. All six are companies in which Kutcher has a financial interest. (note: Chegg, is not owned in part by Kutcher, but his company Katalyst, handles social media for the brand).
The use of start-up company logos is apropos as Kutcher’s character Walden Schmidt is a dot-com billionaire who sold his company at the height of the market.
The use of start-up company logos without product-placement compensation paid to the the production company (Warner Brothers Television) or network (CBS) is what is causing the controversy.
Kutcher announced publicly at the Techcrunch Disrupt conference that he was forced to pull the logos from the filming of subsequent episodes, and have them replaced with stickers of fake start-up brands.
A CBS spokesperson confirmed they did not receive compensation for the appearance of the logos, but said that one of the companies plugged on the stickers, Foursquare, was disclosed in an end credit that accompanied the episode (as stipulated by the FCC). It is unclear why the other company logos did not receive the same treatment.
“This was not part of any advertising transaction with CBS,” he said. “Our policy is to disclose such financial interests in a credit at the end of the broadcast.”