On Friday morning, social media exploded with the apparent ad-coupe pulled by the makers of Pan Bahar brand of pan masala by roping in former James Bond star Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan closes the TV commercial with the line: “Pan Bahar – Class never goes out of style.”
While one is likely to find the obvious association between the Brosnan (sporting a grizzly beard like the captain in Titanic movie) and class, the ad world provides a more pragmatic twist to the tale.
Brosnan is Irish and self regulating codes dispensed by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) is unlikely to be applied to him with the same zeal as it would be for an Indian celebrity.
“When Saif did it (endorse Pan Bahar before Brosnan), he had to be doubly careful about what he says, not use his signature etc. One slip and he could be hauled up by the government for promoting a habit that risks consumers’ health. With Brosnan it is different. If something goes wrong who is going to haul Brosnan to the court here,” according to a senior advertising executive with one of India’s biggest ad agencies.
Apart from Saif Ali Khan, in 2014 actor Priyanka Chopra had also endorsed similar brand Rajnigandha for its cardamom mouth freshener brand Silver Pearls but not for the pan masala made by the same DS Group that owns the brand.
This is not just a perception issue, but one that can potentially turn into a media nightmare for the brand custodians, say experts.
In April this year, a Parliamentary Standing Committee recommended new laws that could allow celebrities to be fined and jailed (Rs 50 lakh and five years) for misleading consumers.
However ASCI codes, according to the council’s general secretary Shweta Purandare, does not differentiate between an Indian or a foreign celebrity. The codes just expect brands to provide the necessary health warnings if the products being advertised are potentially harmful for human consumption.
ASCI is a self-regulating body with no legal powers. The recommendations made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee in April had also sought to provide legal powers to the council.