Cadbury has rejected claims that its new advertising campaign for Dairy Milk, which marks the brand's move to Fairtrade, is racist.

The UK's Advertising Standards Authority confirmed today (12 October) that it has received "a number" of complains alleging that the advert is "demeaning" and racially stereotypes Ghanaians. The watchdog said that it will decide next week whether the complaints merit a full investigation.

Toyin Agbetu, head of education and social policy at UK-based African human rights agency Ligali, said that while the advert is not "overtly offensive" it is "definitely exploitative of African culture".

"If I had to highlight an offensive component then its the way Cadbury is hiding behind the mask of 'fairtrade' to promote so called ethical capitalism whilst pretending to respect and celebrate Ghanaian traditions," he said.

However, a spokesperson for Cadbury refuted these allegations.

"We completely reject these allegations and are taking them very seriously," the spokesperson said. "We have a unique connection with Ghana, which goes back 101 years. Two years ago we created the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership - a GBP45m (US$71m) investment in cocoa communities. This year we have strengthened this with Fairtrade certification for Cadbury Dairy Milk in the UK and Ireland. Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Japan also planned for early 2010."

According to Cadbury, over 400 members of the cast and crew were Ghanaian, including the head of design and an assistant producer. The advert features Ghanaian pop star Tinny alongside Ghanaian street dance group High Spits.

"As you'd expect we went to considerable lengths to ensure that this is an authentic Ghanaian production and something which Ghanaians can feel proud of," the spokesperson insisted.

Meanwhile, Reginald Laryea, president of the Advertising Association of Ghana, president of the Ghana Chapter of the International Advertising Association and member of the International Board of the IAA, through his weight behind the chocolate giant's campaign.

"Creativity has no boundary. I think the ad is great with a lot of thought and craft having gone into its production," he said.