We all know how modest Ashton Kutcher's talents are as an actor, but I for one remain in awe -- a little aghast too, but in awe -- of his social media acumen.
Via his Katalyst beachfront, he is Hollywood's smartest advance man-cum-Elmer Gantry who even deployed his own laptop to plug his company investments to some 30 million viewers on the first episode of "Two and a Half Men." CBS made him stop, but the laptop popped up a couple more times.
There's a new book, "Celebrity, Inc.," by Fox News and WSJ contributor Jo Piazza, that lays out about as clearly as I've seen anywhere how Kutcher has built this growing empire on a slim body of credits that will not likely lead to either an honorary Oscar or Lifetime Achievement Emmy.
I chatted briefly the other day with Piazza, who says the only reason Kutcher's back to doing TV is to expand his online empire, the only real coin his realm.
"He's been known for a long time as an average to mediocre actor and he never made claims to be anything other than that. But he is really good at branding and in a marketing evil genius kind of way, he caught on to how to inject celebrity into the Internet long before anybody else.
"He's really figured out a way to bring in all these products and these other brands and do product placement very well, and the only reason he wanted to get back into television was to take the distribution platform that 'Two and a Half Men' has and to gain himself a bigger percentage of the mindshare. The 'Two and a Half Men' audience are not his fans -- they're a little bit older, less computer savvy -- but he's trying to bring new fans into the Kutcher circle...," Piazza says.
Here's Ash in September on the laptop flap.