What’S Surrogate Advertising And Why Amitabh Bachchan Terminated Contract With Pan Masala Brand

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In surrogate advertisements, banned products are not projected directly to consumers but rather masked under another product under the same brand name.

On the occasion of his 79th birthday on October 11, Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan terminated his contract with a pan masala brand, saying “he wasn’t aware it fell under surrogate advertising”. He has even returned the money he received as part of his contract.

An official statement from Amitabh Bachchan’s office read, “Kamala Pasand… a few days after the commercial was aired, Mr Bachchan contacted the brand and stepped out of it last week. Upon checking why this sudden move, it was revealed that when Mr Bachchan became associated with the brand, he wasn’t aware that it falls under surrogate advertising. Mr Bachchan has terminated the contract with the Brand, has written to them his termination and has returned the money received for the promotion.”

The move comes after the actor faced backlash on social media for featuring in an advertisement of a pan masala brand. In September, the National Organization for Tobacco Eradication (NOTE), an NGO, had also urged Bachchan to not endorse commercials that promote pan masala brands.

“As an oncologist and member of an NGO working in the field of tobacco cessation, I am aggrieved and provoked to wage war against the dubious measures, such embellishment done by various influential and famous Bollywood actors like Shah Rukh Khan, Ajay Devgn, Ranveer Singh, and Hrithik Roshan, leading to increased tobacco use among students,” read the NOTE letter.

What is surrogate advertising?

Surrogate advertisements are those advertisements where the brand image of one product is duplicated to promote another product of the same brand. This technique of advertising is used by those brands which manufacture products that cannot be advertised on mass media.

The concept of surrogate advertisements gathered steam in India after the advertising of sin goods — like tobacco and liquor products — was banned on mass media under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995.

However, the Act gave leeway for surrogate advertisements under the cover of brand extensions, saying — a product that uses a brand name or logo, which is also used for cigarettes, tobacco products, wine, alcohol, liquor, or other intoxicants, may be advertised on cable services.

After a ban on direct advertisement of sin goods, the liquor and tobacco industry found a way to promote its products through surrogate advertisements. In these surrogate ads, banned products are not projected directly to consumers but rather masked under another product under the same brand name. The objective is to familiarise people with a brand so that whenever there is a mention of that brand, people start associating it with its main product.

For instance, liquor brands often advertise music CDs. Similarly, pan masala brands have been seen to project themselves as cardamom or saffron-coated mouth fresheners.

In the past, alcohol brand Kingfisher used to advertise its bottled water, soda, and even a calendar under the brand name ‘Kingfisher’.

Twitter hails Bachchan

Social media users have appreciated Amitabh Bachchan’s decision to step down as the face of a pan masala brand. A Twitter user — @peepoye_ — wrote, “Thank u, @SrBachchan Sir! You’ve shown that you are indeed the ‘Shenshah’ of Indian Cinema! Hope the way you have terminated your contract with the Pan Masala Brand, other actors will also follow in your footsteps!”

Another Twitter User — @knowthenation — wrote, “Social media impact… Amitabh Bachchan terminates contract with pan masala brand.”


(Edited by : Anilkumar Narayan)

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