As Pierce Brosnan’s recent advertisement endorsing Pan Bahar, a heritage pan masala, had the netizens of the country respond to it by making it the day’s figure of fun, it opens up the ground for important questions on the country’s confusing stance on tobacco consumption and the plight of advertisement tactics relying on viral content for branding policies.
India is the world’s 2nd largest producer of tobacco. There are 13 states producing the crop, accounting for the production of 800 million kg annually. India also happens to be hosting ‘the seventh session of the conference of the parties’ or COP7 in November this year which will witness the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’s 180 parties, making it one of the largest events in the country, to be hosted in New Delhi. While the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) have reportedly initiated talks on bringing about a regulation on tobacco products, especially chewed products such as gutka and pan masala, the self-proclaimed ‘World’s most expensive pan masala’ brand Pan Bahar has managed to pull an internet thunder with Pierce Brosnan endorsing the brand stating ‘Class never goes out of style’.
Die Another Day?
The Tobacco Institute of India (TII) seems to, for good reason, have made an appeal to the Indian government for an inclusion of the Tobacco farming community at the FCTC COP7 meet since stringent regulatory laws will inadvertently cause the tobacco farmers and the industry on the whole a huge loss. It is remarkably astonishing that only 11 pc of India’s tobacco consumption is legal. Pierce Brosnan, ex-James Bond, looking suave in his traditional black and white delicately-cut tuxedo, is made to sell sophistication for “India’s Heritage Pan Masala” as Pan Bahar calls itself. The Indian audience is only left to wonder if the ‘License to spit’, India’s heritage style of consuming chewable tobacco products with red stains painting the corridors of most streets and buildings in the country including the government compounds, is in sync with the Prime Minister’s keep-the-country-clean initiative, Swachh Bharath Abhiyan.
Ironically, the parent company of Pan Bahar, DJ Group of companies, which claims to ‘develop one neighbourhood at a time’, proudly states, “What began as an idea to bring a small but ground-breaking addition to the tradition of enjoying the pan, is today a multi-billion dollar industry. The concept of pan masala conceived and created by the founder of the DJ Group captured the imagination of a nation, and Pan Bahar became a household name within a few years.”
With a multi-billion dollar industry forming a part of India’s FMCG lineage, claiming to take up “The quest for innovation, the commitment to continue building iconic brands”, the use of International celebrities for Indian brands yet again seems to pass a commentary on India’s white-skin hang-up. Hugh Jackman endorsing Micromax, Lionel Messi as a brand ambassador for Tata Motors and an unending list of international celebrities endorsing Indian brands, officially, now has the most significant member of the club – Pierce Brosnan.
Cut Bond some slack
Twitterati have come down heavily at this branding stunt, but it is only unfair for the actor to be deemed the focal point of the social media tremors. Some interesting tweets however throw light on the advertising tactic, instead, posing questions with the adequate bouts of humour.
Bro Pan Bahar, the supari you give to James Bond is supposed to be figurative, not literal.
— Puspak Patnaik (@puspakpatnaik) October 7, 2016
— Lokesh Rathi (@monteindore) October 7, 2016
The curious case of viral ad strategies: Ad Frat Speak
Can advertising and brand experts tell us if going viral but becoming a laughing stock is good brand strategy? #PanBahar
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) October 7, 2016
When Amit Sen, a renowned ad filmmaker in India and Bangladesh, was asked about the ad campaign, he responded from the point of view of the branding team, stating, “Pan Bahar as a brand that is bordering towards becoming a banned product needed to catch the required eye balls which it has successfully done. So, from the branding perspective, half the battle is won already.” On asking him about which advertisement endorsed by large-budget celebrities was his favourite, he mentioned the late 90s advertisement for Pepsi wherein Shahrukh Khan imitates Sachin Tendulkar, only to have the cricketer actually appear.
The Indian audience is often found to be reminiscing about the advertisements of the late 80s and 90s. With a seeming dearth of feel-good ads with a personal touch for the country such as the 90s’ Fevicol advertisement series, the rarity of making a wholesome utility of a big-name endorsing the brand instead of content that is made as an inviting subject of social media bullying, the lack of advertisements with an archival value, one can only hope that the ad-makers rethink their strategies.