Remember how Indian brand Micromax pulled off a stunner when it signed Hollywood star Hugh Jackman to break its low-cost image?
Three years later, another Indian brand has brought a Hollywood celeb on board. This time it's DJ Group that has roped in Hollywood star Pierce Brosnan to endorse its pan masala as it looks to close the gap with a leading rival which has Priyanka Chopra endorsing it.
If we look past the epic trolling the ad is receiving, Brosnan telling the Indian audience that the pan masala is something he can't do without is huge, at least from the estimated Rs 25,000-crore pan masala industry's point of view.
But it's a huge failure of advertisement ethics.
The initial blame lies with the DJ Group that has defied the rules and guidelines of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) by roping in yet another star - this time a global star - to promote a product that is barred from any direct and indirect advertisement. The brand earlier used Saif Ali Khan as its brand ambassador for what it claimed was the world's costliest pan masala and was rightly panned for it.
But Brosnan, known worldwide for his portrayal of the iconic James Bond, is promoting a product that any respectable star should not be promoting. He has become the face of a potentially harmful product that has to carry a statutory warning saying that its consumption is injurious to health.
Pierce Brosnan_ Pan BaharPic1- when you want to kill others. Pic2- when you want to kill yourself. 😛 pic.twitter.com/V0C2hKN3HT— Lazy Cat (@DenNehaS) October 7, 2016
Pan masala is advertised on television as a mouth-freshener, but it's common knowledge that its key ingredient is areca nuts (supari) which has addictive properties. In fact, in terms of cancer-causing ability, areca nuts are right up there with tobacco.
A study published by Tata Hospital in March was the latest to raise an alarm over it. The study concluded that "Pan masala is carcinogenic, genotoxic, and has harmful effects on the oral cavity, liver, kidneys and reproductive organs" and urged the government to strictly enforce the already laid-out ban on its advertising.
In such a scenario, Brosnan glorifying pan masala as a status symbol is a shame. It's just another case of a celebrity ignoring ethics for moolah. Of course, Brosnan is not the only one with dodgy ethics given his Indian counterparts haven't exactly been ideal examples.
Prominent Bollywood actors like Shah Rukh Khan, Ajay Devgn, Saif Ali Khan, Govinda, Arbaaz Khan and Sunny Leone are all as guilty. Worse, despite being chastised by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), advertisements of these products featuring celebrities continue to be made.
Criticism has fallen on deaf ears, which is not surprising given the kind of money involved. As per a Business Standard report, while Shah Rukh Khan signed a deal for Rs 20 crore to promote a pan masala brand in 2014, Priyanka Chopra charged Rs 1 crore more than her usual fee.
It must be noted here in January, the Council firmly reiterated that its code requires that ads of products carrying a health warning or cannot be used by minors, should not feature personalities from the field of sports, music and cinema.
This applies to both the manufacturers and the celebs, but no one is listening.
This year, the council pulled up Kamla Kant & Co thrice for having actor Anu Kapoor promoting its pan masala. Kapoor, as per the council, has a significant influence on minors and should stay away. But the rebukes seem to be having no effect.
Interestingly, Sunny Leone, who endorsed a pan masala in the past, is the first and only Bollywood celeb to have heeded the norms, and picked ethics over a lucrative deal.
This January, Sunny announced on camera that she won't be signing any such endorsement deals in the future because of health concerns.
But given the advertisement standards council has no legal teeth and it's up to the brands, advertisement companies and celebrities to take a call, they have all gotten away so far.
And, unfortunately, so will an aged Brosnan.