How will the new Consumer Protection Bill affect celebrity endorsements?

Experts say the Bill’s clause of penalty on endorsers will see celebrities becoming choosy and expensive

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Published: Aug 9, 2019 8:58 AM  | 3 min read

Days after actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas was trolled for photographs that showed her smoking in spite of being the face of Cipla Respiratory’s awareness campaign, a new bill passed in the Parliament brings the onus of trust on the brand ambassador.

According to the new Consumer Protection Bill, a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) will be put in place to promote and enforce consumer rights.

The CCPA according to the bill, can fine a celebrity endorser upto Rs 10 lakhs for being associated with misleading advertisements. There can also be imprisonment up to two years for false advertising. The bill further says that in case of a repeat offender there can be a penalty of up to Rs 50 lakhs and imprisonment of up to five years. Additionally an endorser can also be banned from indulging in advertisement contracts for upto a year or three years in case of repeat offenders.

Where does this new rule lead endorsers? According to experts celebrities would become more choosy and expensive. “Brands will have to be more selective about the faces they get on board because the endorser has to be responsible for what he or she promotes,” said Sagar Patil, Associate Media Director, Carat India. “With the blame shared between brands and endorsers, celebrities will soon be careful about the products and services they are promoting. They will now weigh their options very well and not take up endorsements in bulks like they do now. They will reduce the number of brands they endorse and this will automatically make them more premium with hiked endorsement fees.”

Blaming celebrities for being part of misleading advertisements is nothing new. Celebrities have taken a lot of flak from customers for advertising certain products or services. What is new is the penalty. “The penalty clause attached to the bill makes it a hard-hitting one. Celebrities have to now think twice before signing contracts with a brand. While the money might not be too much for a celebrity to pay the other clauses of getting barred from advertising for anywhere between a year and three is something celebrities wouldn’t want to risk,” said media expert Aanita Nayyar.

Advertising agencies also see some grey areas in the new bill. “An advertisement should never be false. But misleading means giving the wrong idea or impression, hence can be subjective and open to interpretation. The job of advertising is to magnify the benefit, and make the consumer curious and excited about the offering. I think consumers today are literate enough to understand the concept of ‘suspension of disbelief’. If we strictly go by the rule book, the iconic Fevicol ads, like the egg, shadow or even the aliens would never have happened. Both the advertisers and agency need to be careful, but it should not become a deterrent to doing great work,” said Ajay Verma, managing partner at Mumbai-based advertising agency, Enormous Brands.

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