Kutcher uses sitcom to plug his portfolio

“Two and a Half Men” has always provided viewers with eye-catching fun in the form of executive producer Chuck Lorre’s split-second vanity cards at the end of each episode. Now new “Men” star Ashton Kutcher is getting in on the action with some sly visuals of his own.

The actor-cum-Internet entrepreneur had a scene in the second episode (full video here; click to 6:33 mark) in which he sits with a laptop covered with stickers that just happen to represent multiple companies in which he has a real-life financial stake (see screen shot here).

“Men” net CBS did not receive compensation for the plug, according to a CBS spokesman, who noted 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).

“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.”

But other companies not listed yet clearly visible on the laptop included Hipmunk, which like Foursquare is clearly identified, and the logos of other Kutcher investments including Flipboard and GroupMe. Another visible company name, Chegg, is not owned in part by Kutcher, but his shingle, Katalyst, handles social media for that firm.

Given Kutcher is playing an Internet billionaire on the series, the stickers may be seen as a touch of authenticity. But he’s been criticized in the past for being a bit too aggressive when it comes to self-promotion. Kutcher raised eyebrows last month when, as guest editor of Details magazine, he touted numerous companies in which he had invested without clearly disclosing his involvement. He’s also been criticized for doing same on his Twitter account, where he enjoys a massive following.

Kutcher has also found another way to leverage the sitcom as a means for boosting his investments but in more organic fashion. During Monday’s episode, Kutcher participated in a mass video chat in which he watched along with dozens of fans (see clip above). The service that enabled the experience was Tinychat, which just happened to count Kutcher among its investors. Tinychat allows for a variation on the increasingly common practice of actors tweeting along with episodes.

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