Bold stand: Big B pulls out of Kamla Pasand ad
On his 79th birthday, Amitabh Bachchan, one of the most seen Bollywood faces in advertisements, has decided to pull out from his endorsement deal with Kamla Pasand, a pan masala brand. Big B, who features in an ad along with Ranveer Singh for Kamla Pasand Elaichi, had received some flak on social media last month for endorsing the brand in what is being viewed as a surrogate ad for a tobacco-based product.
A statement released by his office, through his official blog, said he was not aware that the “deal falls under surrogate advertising” when he got associated with the brand. “Mr Bachchan has terminated the contract with the brand, has written to them his termination and has returned the money received for the promotion,” the statement added.
His move has evoked mixed views in brand circles. Business Strategist and Angel Investor Lloyd Mathias hailed it as a good move. He said, “I think it’s a positive step that a well-known public figure is ready to relook at his endorsement deals on moral grounds. Bachchan’s decision to pull out of the deal is a mature step. It also sends a signal to all other brand ambassadors that they need to be accountable for the choices they make in terms of endorsing brands as this influences the choices of their fans. Brand ambassadors need to own accountability for their decisions which influence many.”
On the other hand, others pointed out that the decision could have been prompted by public criticism, especially over social media. Sandeep Goyal, Chief Mentor, Indian Institute of Human Brands, who has been vocal about surrogate advertising trends in the country, said, “ All celebrities know fully well what they are doing. Only when the consequences outweigh the monetary gains do they decide it is perhaps not worth the bother.”
“Brand endorsers are under a wider and deeper degree of scrutiny than ever before. I do believe stars are wary of this as they refuse consumer-contentious categories,” said brand strategy expert Harish Bijoor.
Actors such as Ajay Devgn, Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan have, in recent times, not shied away from endorsing products made by pan masala brands.
This is not the first time a celebrity has had to backtrack from an endorsement deal associated with a pan masala brand. In 2018, Hollywood star Pierce Brosnan’s endorsement of Pan Bahar met with ridicule and he was quick to end his association.
According to the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) guidelines, celebrities should not be featured in advertisements for products that by law require health warnings in their packaging or ads.
Recently, ASCI had also tightened guidelines for surrogate advertisements. The guidelines state that brand extensions of products such as alcohol and tobacco which have been present in the market for less than two years need to have net sales turnover of ₹20 lakh per month from launch or demonstrate fixed asset investments of not less than ₹10 crore.