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Defying the ban by ASCI, Pan Bahar is back with its Pierce Brosnan ad

After staying silent for around two months, the brand is back with the ad that caught a lot of flak earlier – with no changes! The brand claims it is only a mouth freshener ad with no tobacco content

Akansha Mihir Mota | Mumbai | February 22, 2017


Pan Bahar is back in the advertising mode. After a silence of around two months, the brand has aired the same Pierce Brosnan ad that created a huge controversy when it was first launched. The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) had then deemed the ad misleading and advised the brand to either withdraw or modify the advertisement. But the brand has not made any changes in the ad.

Ravi Srivastava, an RTI activist who has been extensively complaining about pan masala ads for three years now, had first complained about the original Pan Bahar’s Pierce Brosnan ad to ASCI. This time also, he took Twitter to file a complaint against the brand.

Srivastava said, “I have got several orders in my favour and those ads were withdrawn ultimately. This time they have used a foreign actor for their ad. To use a celebrity for a product that is harmful for consumption and society is not good practice. I earlier thought that the Hollywood actor might not understand the repercussion of advertising such a product. Now I understand that he is very aware of this. I saw the ad on ABP News and Aaj Tak. I will fight this again.”

Srinivasan K Swamy Srinivasan K Swamy

On the current complaint lodged by Srivastava with ASCI, Srinivasan K Swamy, ASCI Chairman, said, “If they indeed are running a campaign for a real mouth freshener, it is okay. But if the same visuals are being used to promote pan masala with a celebrity, that is not permitted under ASCI guidelines. Also, the brand extension of mouth freshener does not meet the guidelines in this regard.”

However, Swamy added, “I must, however, clarify that I have not seen the TVC currently on air, so my comments are based on limited knowledge of the situation.” has a copy of the earlier ASCI recommendation that clearly stated: “We have advised the advertiser to withdraw or modify the said advertisement. If you continue to see the advertisement kindly bring the same to our notice. The print advertisement, hoarding and the TVC contravened Chapters I.4, III.2(e), III.6 (a) (b) of the ASCI Code. The complaints were upheld.”

Vikash Shukla Vikash Shukla contacted Pan Bahar to know its point of view. Vikash Shukla, Brand Manager at Ashok & Co. Pan Bahar, said, “We deliberately stopped advertising two months back because too much was talked about the product and the brand then and we thought of being silent for some time. Now we have again started advertising. We are not doing any illegal advertising or surrogate advertising. We are advertising our mouth freshener and nothing else. We don’t even have tobacco content in our product.”

Asked if they have made any modifications in the ad according to the ASCI recommendations, Shukla said, “We have not modified anything in our ad that is currently on air. It is the same ad that we ran before.”

The earlier complaint was considered by ASCI’s Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) at its meeting. The advertiser was also offered an opportunity for a personal hearing with the ASCI Secretariat. According to the recommendation, the advertiser’s representatives did not seek a personal hearing and submitted a written response.

Shukla said, “We have not received any recommendations from ASCI.”

The recommendation also stated that the CCC viewed the print advertisement, hoarding, TVC and considered the advertiser’s response. The advertiser had back then argued that their products are not meant for consumption and use by minors, and are not sold to minors nor targeted at them. The CCC noted that the advertiser did not provide a sample of the product or a copy of the FSSAI licence.

In the recommendation, it was also written that the advertiser had shown the celebrity (Pierce Brosnan) all the products of Pan Bahar that include the pan masala category (Pan Bahar Crystal & Pan Bahar Heritage) in various advertisements. The pan masala advertisement has a health warning ‘Pan masala is injurious to health’. The CCC concluded that minors are very likely to be exposed to the advertisements in various media such as print, hoarding and TVC. It said the celebrity in the advertisement would have a significant influence on minors who are likely to emulate him in using the product.

According to ASCI, the advertisements showing the celebrity contravened Chapter III.2 (e) of the ASCI Code, which specifically states that advertisements “should not feature personalities from the field of sports and entertainment for products which, by law, require a health warning ‘Pan masala is injurious to health’ in their advertising or packaging.”

In ASCI’s recommendation, the CCC also noted that the advertisement for Pan Bahar Crystal and Pan Bahar Heritage is misleading by implication and contravened Chapters I.4 and III.6 (b) of the ASCI Code. It reads: “Whether there exists 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 whose advertising is restricted or prohibited by law or by this Code.”

In the recommendation, it was also noted that the advertisements did not meet the requirements of ASCI's Guidelines for Qualification of Brand Extension Product or Service and thereby contravened Chapter III.6 (a) of the ASCI Code (“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”).

Rohit Ohri Rohit Ohri

BestMediaInfo got in touch with industry veteran Rohit Ohri, Chairman and CEO of FCB Ulka, to know about the repercussions the brand might face now. “This has always been a challenge for such brands. They go for surrogate advertising. They don’t have an opportunity to create a new brand. What they can actually do is to somehow push their brand name forward. They could have used a different brand name for the mouth freshener, but they actually chose the same name ‘Pan Bahar’ purposely and for a reason. If they are not taking ASCI’s recommendation seriously, then there is an issue. They will again face restrictions from ASCI,” said Ohri.

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