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Russian ads using Obama spark racism complaints

The ad for ice cream bars - featuring a smiling, cartoonish black man flashing a V-for-Victory sign in front of the White House - is one of several ads that has generated heated discussions, with the critics blasting the ad as insensitive and racist.

world Updated: Mar 20, 2009 21:16 IST

Obama ice cream, anyone? Chocolate-vanilla ice cream is one of several Russian products being marketed using America's first black president, even as critics call the ads racist.

Other ads featuring US President Barack Obama have promoted tanning salons and tooth-whitening services.

But the creator of one Obama-themed ad -- for ice cream bars which have a chocolate-flavoured centre embedded in a layer of vanilla -- insisted on Friday that it was not racist and should be seen as a joke.

The ad for Duet ice cream bars features a smiling, cartoonish black man flashing a V-for-Victory sign in front of the White House, along with the Russian slogan: "Everyone's talking about it: dark inside white!"

Some blasted the ad as insensitive after it surfaced on English-language websites this week. "This is just racist," said one visitor to the Ads of the World website, while another asked: "Is the ice cream as tasteless as the ad?"

Andrei Gubaidullin, who created the ad, told AFP that it was not racist and that Russia simply had a different attitude to race than Western countries.

"For Russia, this is not racist. It is fun and that's it," said Gubaidullin, creative director at Voskhod advertising agency, based in the Urals Mountains city of Yekaterinburg.

"We don't consider teasing ethnic groups racist. It is just seen as a joke," he said by telephone, adding that he personally liked Obama.

In another ad to play on Obama's race, a leaflet recently seen in Moscow used a photograph of the US president to promote a tanning salon.

And a leaflet circulated in Moscow last fall showed a smiling Obama with the slogan "Full Dental Democracy!" to promote the MeraDent chain of dental clinics.

People of African descent are relatively few in Russia and those who do live in the country often complain of racism.