This year there has been a lot of debate and discussion on the advertisements of pan masala brands featuring celebrities. From international stars like Pierce Brosnan being roped in as the face of Pan Bahar, to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) cracking their whip on the ad, advertising watchdog ASCI forming guidelines on the advertisements of categories like pan masala, supari and the Delhi government asking Bollywood stars to not endorse these brands as they contain potential cancer causing agents, the year gone by has not been short of controversies for this category.
Jagdeep Kapoor, Chairman & Managing Director, Samsika Marketing Consults elaborated, “There are certain categories like liquor, pan masala or supari, which are unmentionable and are usually seen with a different eye. However, if you allow them to be sold, they will find some or the other way to advertise. In terms of revenue earner, they are high earners, so there is a need to advertise them in a responsible fashion. A lot of factors need to be taken into account, like being responsible as a brand, as an endorser and also show your responsibility towards consumers. My brand mantra is- Lead consumers, don’t mislead them. I feel in the coming year, celebrities will be able to double their fees, as both companies and endorsers get selective. They can also manage to triple their fees, if the endorsers can manage the equity of their own brand along with the brand they are endorsing.”
In the month of October, Hollywood star Pierce Brosnan surprised his fans when he appeared in the Pan Bahar commercial. The creative along with the brand was heavily criticised as it didn’t go down well with die-hard Brosnan fans who simply couldn’t digest his shift from suave to plebeian. According to reports, the company shelled out a hefty amount for a day’s work, roughly more than Rs 10 crore was paid to the actor for endorsing the brand. Post the furore on social media, the brand came out with a statement that there is lack of awareness about the product and it has no tobacco in it. Few days later, Brosnan and his team accused Pan Bahar of violating the contract as the actor thought he was endorsing a breath freshener/ tooth whitener product.
Harish Bijoor, Brand-expert &Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, said, “Some categories such as pan masala are emerging to be socially ostracised categories. To that extent, these categories are best avoided by brand-endorsers. It is best that these categories depend on offtake that is retail-driven rather than being brand-endorser driven.”
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. Most of these brands, which operate under the mouth-freshener category, are actually surrogate forms to promote zarda, tobacco and gutkha and that they subtly endorse their consumption.
Earlier, this year the Delhi government had written to these Bollywood stars asking them to not endorse pan masala brands as they contain potential cancer causing agents, and had requested them to join its Anti-Tobacco Drive. Even in November 2015, Bollywood actors--Shah Rukh Khan, Govinda and Manoj Vajpayee were served notices by the regulator-- Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), for endorsing pan masala brands.
ASCI guidelines for pan masala ads:
Speaking on the ASCI guidelines about the pan masala category advertisements, Shweta Purandare, Secretary General, ASCI, in an earlier interaction with exchange4media.com had said, “There are certain ASCI guidelines which have been introduced. While products like Pan Masala and Supari are not banned for sale or from advertising by law, their ads should not feature personalities from the field of sports, music and cinema for products which, by law, either require a health warning in their advertising or cannot be purchased by minors. Also it is important that the advertisers as well as celebrities are aware of this clause of ASCI code and sensitised to this issue so that they can advertise in a responsible manner.”
KV Sridhar, Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Hyper Collective, said, “If the content of the ad is crossing the line, it will get banned. It actually depends on two factors, legality and morality. On the grounds of morality, no one should advertise, but on the grounds of legality, there are certain loopholes, like you can advertise about supari, saffron or saunf.”