MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian advertising agency has used an image resembling U.S. President Barack Obama to promote a new vanilla-and-chocolate ice cream, drawing the ire of human rights groups who said the ad was vulgar.
Ice Cream Plant No. 3 in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg launched last week a new brand named "Duet."
The poster features a computer-generated caricature of a broadly smiling figure resembling Obama standing in front of the U.S. Congress with the ice cream in the foreground.
The strapline reads: "It's on everyone's lips -- the Dark is in the White!"
"We wanted to make the print amusing and cheerful, just as joyful and pleasant as the process of eating an ice cream," Yevgeny Primachenko, deputy creative director of Voskhod advertisement agency, told Reuters by phone from Yekaterinburg.
"This is just a vanilla ice cream with a chocolate filling," Primachenko said. "We decided: why not use such a great news peg as the election of the first black U.S. president to the White House, while showing no political preferences at the same time?"
Prominent Russian human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov rapped the advertisement as "a vulgar exploitation of some political symbols in pursuit of commercial interests."
He added however: "I do not think the person who created this is necessarily a racist ... But our society is xenophobic all the same."
Russia has a growing problem with violent racist attacks on dark-skinned immigrants.
The ice cream maker said on its website (www.xk3.ru) the new brand would be sold across Russia, from Moscow to Kemerovo in Siberia and Blagoveshchensk in the Far East.
Primachenko admitted his advertising agency had received negative reviews from some foreign colleagues maintaining that the ad had xenophobic or even racist overtones.
But he added: "We have so far not received any critical calls or negative comments from Russia ... I can tell you one thing -- our client is absolutely happy, that's the main thing. I myself bought this ice cream today. It tastes great!"
Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Jon Boyle