The great ad-ban mockery – powered by celebs
So, when Shah Rukh Khan says, I have made it large, you all know he is talking about Royal Stag whisky and not music CDs in that TV commercial. Yes, there are Royal Stag CDs. Likewise, when Ajay Devgn emphasises iske dane dane me kesar hai, we all know that the product (Vimal Pan Masala) that he endorses comes with a statutory warning. Priyanka Chopra (Rajnigandha endorser) and Saif Ali Khan (Pan Bahar ambassador) understand that they legally cannot endorse tobacco since their advertising is banned, so they promote their namesake – respectively cardamom (elaichi) and betel nut (supari), or ‘mouth fresheners’, as they are now being positioned as… Not sure if Urmila Matondkar’s contract with 502 Pataka (the chai, not bidi) is still on.
No, I am not questioning the intent of the celebs. They do what they believe is good for them (and to an extent for their fans and followers). If they think endorsing tobacco makes them look cool, it is for them to decide. As for consumers, the newer generations are steadily becoming conscious and are aware of the fact the celebs do not really consume what they promote, endorse, or advertise.
The point, though, is this: if a supposed ban – enforced by lawmakers – is being mocked in newspapers, television and radio as well as on roadside hoardings, then why are the lawmakers and concerned authorities acting blind towards such promotional strategies? If makers of such laws have the authority to ban advertising or promotions of certain products, don’t they also possess the power to restrict the use of brand names of such products for promoting other products, especially if they are owned by the same company? Yes, they certainly can amend the law, but have not done so, and the reasons for it could be many – pressure from business lobbyists, subtle governmental agendas, or ‘go soft’ orders on highly taxed businesses. However, should they give in to such pressures knowing that the fundamental purpose of the ban, which is to discourage consumption of tobacco, is getting diluted?
Another point to be noted: if the concerned authorities are not acting upon on-your-face violations (can be proven legally, provided the intent is right), can they be trusted with other significant checks that they are to make? For instance, when a packaged food maker makes loud claims of being ‘healthy’ and ‘nutritious’, or when a cosmetic brand makes extraordinary claims of enhancing your beauty, I wonder if the government authorities – who operate on public money and have been assigned to do authenticity and ethicality checks on brands’ claims in ads – ever question the intent of such ads.
While pondering upon ways to check on authorities responsible to keep a check, Team Consumer Voice came up with an idea: shouldn’t consumers themselves raise their voice? How about writing to Advertising Standards Council or censor boards or other such bodies? Just drop in a line or two in an email and see what they have got to say. Filing a query under Right to Information Act is another way of doing it. If you find anything worth sharing with the larger audience, this is your magazine, your voice.