Amitabh Bachchan terminates ad contract with tobacco brand
The developments come in the wake of social media posts about actors including Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan, Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgan endorsing various chewing tobacco brands having escalated in recent months, with users questioning actors endorsing products harmful for health.
“ASCI’s guidelines also state that celebrities should not participate in advertisements of products which by law require a health warning in their ads or packaging,” self regulatory industry entity Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) secretary general Manisha Kapoor told ET. “The ASCI code has clear guidelines in place for advertising of brand extensions of products whose advertising is prohibited by law,” Kapoor added.
By law, tobacco advertising is not allowed. The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 or COTPA, 2003, prohibits advertisements related to production, supply and distribution of cigarettes and other tobacco products in India.
Ajay Devgn and Shah Rukh Khan have prominently featured together in Vimal pan masala ads, Saif Ali Khan has actively promoted Pan Bahar in the past, while Hrithik Roshan endorses Siggnature pan masala.
Last month, Bachchan was approached by the National Organisation for Tobacco Eradication (NOTE), to stop endorsing pan masala. NOTE had said in the letter that since consumption of the product could lead to addiction to tobacco which decays the health of the citizens, the actor should consider dropping the chewing tobacco endorsement. Bachchan is also the face of the government’s pulse polio campaign.
Ad industry executives Amitabh Bachchan’s move is similar to that of Cristiano Ronaldo when he moved aside bottles of Coke during a Euro Cup presser, a development that highlighted how celebrities across the world are under pressure to re-evaluate endorsements of unhealthy products.
“There are several categories that have come under pressure and backlash like fairness creams, sugary drinks, alcohol and others. Earlier, endorsements of such categories would pass under the radar, however with gatekeeper activism on social media, things are a lot harder,” said Prathish Nair, founder, Trancend Brand Consulting. “Celebrities are now seen as torch bearers of society so name lending or appearances without understanding the category nuances and the possible backlash is a big no,” Nair said.
In June this year, footballer Cristiano Ronaldo moved aside two Coca-Cola bottles out of the frame at a Euro 2020 press conference, and instead held up a bottle of water, a move that contributed to a $4 billion fall in market capitalisation of Coca-Cola.