Hatred is suddenly in the air towards India’s favourite stars as the Corporate Affairs Ministry has started airing radio advertisements warning people not to make investment decisions based on love for their favourite celebrity.
The ad, which has been airing on All India Radio’s FM channel, is a conversation between friends who are also investors. It tells companies not to waste money on celebrities and urges consumers not to believe their claims. This move was made after the recent incident of Amitabh Bachchan telling a gathering that he stopped endorsing Pepsi after he was confronted by a little girl who wondered why he promoted the soft drink her teacher had branded as poison. The actor invited a lot of criticism, with people even urging him to donate Rs 24 crore.
It is an attempt by the Government to ban misleading ads and educate people to make knowledgeable decisions. As per the Companies Act, 2013, any person who makes a promise or forecast that is false shall be punishable with jail of six months, extending up to 10 years.
Ajay Kakar, Chief Marketing Officer - Financial Services, Aditya Birla Group remarked, “Celebrity advertising is a time-tested strategy used by brands across categories and countries. They play a major role in the evolution of a brand depending on the category, the target audience and the offering. While celebrity advertising does attract immediate attention and recall, the principle of Caveat emptor or buyer beware does apply not only to the financial category but across all categories. No buyer should make a purchase decision only on advertising, whether by a celebrity or non-celebrity. They should exercise their own judgement, make informed choices and ensure that the product or the service should meet their expectation.”
According to reports, the Central Consumer Protection Council (CCPC), under the chairmanship of Minister KV Thomas, decided to set up a sub-committee to suggest strategies to deal with false claims of advertisers and misleading ads.
According to Alok Bansal, Co-Founder & CFO, PolicyBazaar.com, “Celebrity endorsements related to financial products should be taken with a pinch of salt, because one cannot expect the celebrity to know the technical details of the investment. The ads in this case should be divided into two parts – one catering to the services and vision of the company in which the ambassador can play a major role in creating a strong brand recall, and the other should be catering to the facts of the product, which need not be necessarily promoted by a celebrity. The ad should present information on the financial product validated by a credible source. This demarcation can avoid misleading ads.”
The financial category has a lot of celebrities endorsing various services offered by brands. ICICI Bank recently launched a campaign with Amitabh Bachchan to showcase ‘Tab Banking’, through which it promised customers the convenience of opening a bank account at their home or office. Birla Sun Life Insurance launched an emotional campaign featuring brand ambassador Yuvraj Singh.
KV Sridhar, Chief Creative Officer, India Sub-continent, Leo Burnett believes that a brand is not a living object so it needs someone to tell its story. “One cannot just blame a celebrity for misleading people because he/she is just the messenger of the brand. The manufacturer or the service provider is the one who creates the product and if it is misleading the consumers, then the manufacturer is totally responsible. People should invest in financial products after reading the documents carefully and almost all the ads suggest that these products are subject to market risks. If the product is making a false claim then it should be banned and not the celebrity because he is just a representative. It’s just like putting the lawyer behind bars for a crime and not the criminal,” he said.
He further said that celebrities should also be careful before endorsing a brand and they should be aware of the pros and cons related to it. “If they are morally responsible for people, then they are morally responsible for the brand also. They cannot tarnish the image of the brand after the completion of the contract because brands are like human beings and engaging in negative publicity is like character assassination,” he added.
Experts also suggested that investors do not base their finance decisions on celebrity pull. They do thorough research before making any investment so celebrity endorsement doesn’t play a huge role in this category. However, they definitely have a greater impact on other categories like cosmetics and health products. Hence, they should be careful before they endorse a product.