The great ad-ban mock­ery – pow­ered by celebs

Consumer Voice - - Editor's Voice - Padma Ed­i­tor

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.

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