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ASCI seeks clarifications from Pan Bahar

The council’s recent guidelines do not allow pan masalas to be advertised by celebrities and need to have a statutory health warning, saying that it cannot be purchased by minors. But Pan Bahar says the ad was for a mouth freshener

Archit Ambekar | Mumbai | October 19, 2016

asci-logoThe Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has sought clarifications from Pan Bahar on its recent ad featuring Pierce Brosnan. ASCI’s recent guidelines do not allow pan masalas to be advertised by celebrities. There should be a statutory health warning on the product and the advertisement, mentioning that it cannot be purchased by minors, the guidelines say.

Vikash Shukla, Brand Manager, Pan Bahar, said, “ASCI has sought for clarifications from their end and we are replying to ASCI’s email.” Shukla said the advertisement was for a mouth freshener.

When Shweta Purandare, Secretary General, ASCI, was asked about the clarification from the brand, she said, “We won’t be able to comment on this.”

ASCI in its guidelines for ‘pan masala’ brands clearly mentions that their advertisements should not feature personalities from the field of sports, music and cinema for products which, by law, either require a health warning in their advertising or cannot be purchased by minors. It is important that the advertisers as well as celebrities are aware of this clause and are sensitised so that they can advertise in a responsible manner.

It must be noted that in the latest commercial, the brand is not violating these aspects. The brand is advertising its ‘mouth freshener’, which does not classify under a ‘pan masala’ as mentioned by ASCI.

Sharing insights on whether any such ad has been pulled out prior to this one, Purandare clarified, “We won’t be able to comment on whether we are pulling out the Pan Bahar ad.” She mentioned that no such ad has been aired ever since the recent ASCI code was announced in January this year. All players have complied with ASCI’s code, she said.

In the last couple of days, there have been several media reports on the recent Pan Bahar ad featuring Pierce Brosnan. Pahlaj Nihalani, Chairman, Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), questioned how such ads are being telecast without certification. He also brought this to the notice of ASCI.

The self-regulatory body for advertising had instructed in January this year that pan masala brands cannot feature celebrities in them. The instruction came after the Delhi Government Health Department took cognizance of the severe health consequences of pan masalas and the influence of their ads featuring celebrities on minors.

At that time, Purandare had pointed out that while products like pan masala and supari are not banned for sale or from advertising by law, the ASCI code does not permit the use of celebrities in advertisements of products which by law require a health warning on its pack or cannot be purchased or used by minors.

It seems that surrogate advertising has got too many loose ends in India. In spite of having some strict guidelines on what can be advertised on electronic media, brands seem to be finding ways of getting closer to its product than adhering to guidelines.

Previously too, brands like Vimal Pan Masala featuring Ajay Devgn, Pan Vilas featuring Shah Rukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan in Pan Bahar's campaign and many more released surrogate ads. Some of them like Ajay Devgn were also seen in surrogate advertisement of liquor brands. After the ASCI diktat, none of the celebrities are now endorsing the brands. Purandare too clarified that none of the ads are now running on TV.

There are certain guidelines a brand must follow when it comes to advertisements of ‘mouth fresheners’ as mentioned in Chapter 3.6 of the ASCI code:

3.6. Advertisements for products whose advertising is prohibited or restricted by law or by this Code must not circumvent such restrictions by purporting to be advertisements for other products the advertising of which is not prohibited or restricted by law or by this Code. In judging whether or not any particular advertisement is an indirect advertisement for a product whose advertising is restricted or prohibited, due attention shall be paid to the following:

(a) Whether the unrestricted product which is purportedly sought to be promoted through the advertisement under the complaint is produced and distributed in reasonable quantities, having regard to the scale of the advertising in question, the media used and the markets targeted.

(b) Whether there exist in the advertisement under complaint any direct or indirect clues or cues which could suggest to consumers that it is a direct or indirect advertisement for the product who’s advertising is restricted or prohibited by law or by this Code.

(c) Where advertising is necessary, the mere use of a brand name or company name that may also be applied to a product whose advertising is restricted or prohibited is not a reason to find the advertisement objectionable provided the advertisement is not objectionable in terms of (a) and (b) above.

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