Cigarette majors may be smarting from the ban on tobacco advertising, but pan masala companies are having a field day. Ad spends by various pan masala companies have gone up in the last four weeks ending May 15, even as the Tobacco Control Legislation prohibiting all forms of advertising by tobacco product companies came into effect from May 1, 2004.
According to data provided by advertising tracking agency, AdEx India, the pan masala category has emerged in the Top 10 advertisers list, which includes other big spenders such as toilet soaps, washing powders, soft drinks, automobiles and cellular services. For the month of April, the pan masala/zarda/gutka category had spent Rs 21.35 crore in the television and print media compared with Rs 19.93 crore spent by cigarette companies.
Brands such as Pan Parag, Rajnigandha, Chutki and others are advertising their 100 per cent tobacco-free version on news channels such as Aaj Tak, NDTV India and some general entertainment channels.
Senior officials in the Health Ministry said that the pan masala has always been available in tobacco and tobacco-free variants. "Unlike other brands, which have extended into apparel or lifestyle products during the last few years in anticipation of an ad ban, pan masalas have always existed in these two forms. Hence, these ads cannot be classified as surrogate advertising," said the officials.
However, advertising industry sources said that advertising of tobacco-free version is similar to liquor companies advertising apple juice or mineral water. "The advertising is for the liquor brand. Here too, the tobacco version of the brand would get the benefit of the ads," said a senior Mumbai-based media planner.
Even though the huge hoardings space occupied by tobacco companies have been vacated, some surrogate advertising by ITC for Wills Sport and Wills Lifestyle is still visible. "The ads will have to be monitored by the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry but no action against erring companies has been initiated. However, the Health Ministry is part of the inter-ministerial committee set up by the I&B Ministry which monitors ads from time-to-time," the Health Ministry official added. The Ministry is expecting some litigation with regard to surrogate advertising.
Meanwhile, cigarette companies are unhappy with pan masala advertising.. "Under the present regime, pan masala companies have an unfair advantage over cigarette companies. But the flip side to this is that they are entitled to go in for product line extension under the Trademarks Act," said an official from a cigarette company.
According to Mr Sundeep Kumar, Senior Vice-President, Corporate Affairs, Godfrey Philips India (GPI), "There has to be a common clear cut policy on surrogates across all product categories that are facing ad restrictions. There should be no room for interpretations."