A day after Pierce Brosnan said he was "deeply shocked and saddened" by the "unauthorised and deceptive" use of his image to endorse Pan Bahar's pan masala and alleged violation of his contract, a Pan Bahar executive has come forward to defend the advertisement, claiming there's no foul play and the product he is advertising is just a tobacco-free mouth freshener.
Dinesh Jain, brand owner of Pan Bahar told the Times of India, the advertisement was made as per the contract between Brosnan and the company "following all the formalities". Jain stressed that "the product is 0% tobacco. It is a mouth freshener and there is no trace of any tobacco in the product. Hence the advertisement was made as per the law".
A closer look at the print advertisement reveals that Brosnan is indeed holding a Pan Bahar-branded 'Heritage Pan Masala,' which may be a mouth freshener, along with a disclaimer of 'no tobacco'.
A closer look at the print advertisement reveals that Brosnan is indeed holding a Pan Bahar-branded 'Heritage Pan Masala,' which may be a mouth freshener, along with a disclaimer of 'no tobacco'. The print ad was released on Oct 7 taking an entire page in the Times Of India and appearing on several billboards, instantly becoming the butt of Twitter jokes.
However, it must be mentioned here that Brosnan and his team, having been a part of showbiz and media for decades must have been aware of the concept of 'surrogate advertising', what Pan Bahar was resorting to in this case. A practice alcohol and tobacco brands regularly indulge in, surrogate advertising involves staying clear of blatantly mentioning the flagship product sold by the company. Instead, it advertises tertiary products -- for example alcohol companies advertise bottled water, music CDs and fashion events -- to stay visible to the consumer. It's just a little detour they take around the law to market their product. One would have expected Brosnan and his team to be aware of, or be doing the basic research around the company they are endorsing. Honestly, one just needs to Google 'Pan Bahar' to know what it primarily sells, no great investigation is needed.
Honestly, one just needs to Google 'Pan Bahar' to know what it primarily sells, no great investigation is needed.
India's advertising regulator ASIC, which prohibits the explicit advertising of alcohol and tobacco brands, in the meantime, has also warned the ad may have violated its guidelines.
That apart, a video ad featuring Brosnan where he is seen playing catch with the "mouth freshener," seducing a woman, and kicking a few butts dressed like a familiar MI6 "agent" with the punch line --"Class never Goes Out Of Style" -- ends with an image of another product "Pan Bahar Crystal". Now Crystal is not a tobacco-free mouth freshener and is the company's premium Pan Masala product. Alongside that image, is the picture of the tobacco-free 'Heritage Pan Masala'. The commercial was recently banned from national and satellite TV by Central Board Of Film Certification Chief Pahlaj Nihalani.
(WATCH the video here.)
"Pan Bahar Crystal," launched last year with actor Saif Ali Khan as its brand ambassador, claims to be the "world's most expensive Pan Masala" with its "defining taste induced by handpicked Supari (beetelnut) from Shimoga, rarest attars (essence) from Kannauj and Orissa, exquisitely filtered catechu, an extract of acacia, Kochi's aromatic cardamom and Mysore's famed sandalwood oil, infused with 100 per cent edible gold and silver leaves".
Following the barrage of Twitter jokes on how the James Bond actor was inappropriately championing a cancer-causing tobacco product and its resulting spit stains that smear Indian city walls, Brosnan told People Magazine that he had signed up for the advertisement with the understanding that he won't be endorsing anything harmful. Specifically, he alleged that his contract stated he was to only advertise a "breath freshener/tooth whitener," which wouldn't include an ingredient that turns saliva red.
In the interview, he said he was distressed upon finding out that his image had been used to advertise a Pan Masala. "As a man who has spent decades championing women's healthcare and environmental protection, I was distressed to learn of Pan Bahar's unauthorized and deceptive use of my image to endorse their range of pan masala products."
"I would never have entered into an agreement to promote a product in India that is dangerous to one's health," Brosnan said, adding he was contemplating corrective action against Pan Bahar. It's unclear if the company's planning a counter-action against Brosnan. Pan Bahar execs couldn't be reached for comment. It's website says it's "under maintenance." Spokespeople from DDB Mudra Group, the agency behind the advertising campaign, also did not respond to requests seeking comment.
It's unclear exactly what the terms of the contract are between Brosnan and Pan Bahar as they aren't public yet, but the jury is out on whether it's just mouth freshener we are being sold.