On Friday, pan masala brand Pan Bahar broke the internet when it started getting trolled online for getting the 007 Bond actor Pierce Brosnan to endorse it. From a full page Times of India ad featuring the actor to a 60 second TVC conceptualised by DDB Mudra or on hoardings, the creative along with the brand was heavily criticised as it didn’t go down well with the die-hard Brosnan fans.
According to reports, the company has shelled out a hefty amount for a day’s work, roughly more than 10 crore has been paid to the actor for endorsing the brand. In fact, in the last one year, there has been a sudden surge in Bollywood celebrities like Shah Rukh Khan, Ajay Devgan, Akshay Kumar, Govinda, Sunny Leone and others endorsing pan masala brands.
Both Pan Bahar and Brosnan were ripped apart on social media as it started trending on Twitter immediately after the release of the ad. According to Naresh Gupta, CSO, BangInTheMiddle, “This ad depicts everything that is wrong with our industry. No thought, no insight, no strategy, no execution. I have never seen a brand and a campaign being ridiculed so much.”
Following a furore on social media, the brand came out with a statement saying that there is lack of awareness about the product Pan Bahar which has been endorsed by Brosnan. It is a film for a pan masala (Indian mouth freshener) brand which has betel nut, lime, catechu, cardamom seeds, sandal wood oil, and kewara in it and there is no tobacco or nicotine content in this product.
At the start of 2016, the Delhi government wrote to Bollywood celebrities with a request to not endorse pan masala brands as they contain potential cancer causing agents, and asked them to join the Anti-Tobacco Drive. Even in November 2015, Bollywood actors--Shah Rukh Khan, Govinda and Manoj Vajpayee were served notice by the regulator-- Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), for endorsing such brands. The advertising watchdog ASCI code also does not permit the use of celebrities in advertisements of products which by law require health warning on its pack or cannot be purchased or used by minors.
In its latest campaign, Pan Bahar intends to establish itself as the ‘Bond of Pan Masalas.’ The campaign is led by a sleek film and is being supported with digital and print engagement. In a complete Bond style, the ad has it all- fast car, sharply dresses men, stylish women, goons and of course Brosnan.
Speaking on the film, Sambit Mohanty, Creative Head, DDB Mudra North said “We live in a world where Indians are globally successful thanks to their creativity, audacity and entrepreneurial attitude. That’s why, when it came to assigning a new brand ambassador for Pan Bahar, Pierce Brosnan was a great choice. He’s the quintessential Bond - an epitome of suavity, style and success – all the attributes that Pan Bahar symbolises. And as an international star, he epitomises ‘Pehchan Kamyabi Ki’ like nobody else."
Below are excerpts of conversations on social media from few well-known people in the industry:
Connect between Brosnan & Pan Bahar:
We spoke to few advertising experts in order to get their views on the ad campaign which created such a huge storm in social media. According to Gupta of BangInTheMiddle, the strategy was how do you take a 63 year old Irish actor and connect him to 20 year olds in India?
Jagdish Acharya- Founder & Creative Head, Cut the Crap said, “Pan masala is a ‘socially negative’ category constantly in need of a leg-up. The game here is not about finding the fit but about lifting the brand. In that context connecting Desi with Hollywood is actually a cool idea, a lot cooler than, say, importing Hugh Jackman on to Micromax. It has got Pan Bahar trending across social media. Never mind reaping praises from or getting ripped by Twitterati, a whole new audience is engaging with it. All the ballyhoo makes the brand exciting for the traditional consumer, at least for a short while.”
Deepak Singh, Chief Creative Officer, The Social Street further highlighted, “Getting Pierce Brosnan for a brand like Pan Bahar wouldn’t have made sense to anyone before they saw this ad. But it is clearly working for the brand as even those who don’t consume the product are talking about it. I think it is a fairly bold attempt.”
The creative is a huge disappointment:
Acharya feels that the disappointment is the film. “James Bond is so yesterday. Even if that be passed, the ad takes it no further. It’s an uneventful thriller executed with banal action. Like movies the ad seems to be grossing best in its opening week. But unlike the movies that may not be enough for the brand” he cited.
Echoing similar views, Saurabh Dasgupta, ECD, Innocean Worldwide commented, “It is nothing less than a disaster of an ad. God knows what they were having when they made the campaign. The ad misses on two important points- story telling and the celebrity brand connect. I don’t know, why they have done the ad at all, probably, it was one of the box which the client wanted to tick off on their mind. Certainly, it cannot be called a mature advertising.”