The move comes after Bachchan’s association with the pan masala brand was criticised by Dr Shekhar Salkar, President of the National Organisation for Tobacco Eradication (NOTE). In a tweet, Dr Salkar had said that while on one hand, Bachchan was “the brand ambassador for national health policies like Pulse Polio Program,” on the other hand, he was “promoting substances posing a health hazard.”
He had further stated that he wrote a letter to Bachchan urging him to withdraw his surrogate advertisement for the paan masala, which can harm “precious lives of youth and fellow citizens.”
Bachchan’s blog post on Monday read, “Kamla 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 returned the money received for the promotion.”
Last month, Bachchan was also asked by a fan on Facebook about his reason for advertising for the pan masala brand. To this, the actor had replied in Hindi, “I ask for your forgiveness. If someone is doing well in their industry, then one should not wonder, ‘Why am I associated with it?’ If that is a business, then we should think about our business too. Now, you feel that I should not have done this, but by doing this, I get paid and there are many people working in our profession, who are workers, and in a way, they too get work and money.”
What is surrogate advertising?
Surrogate advertising is when a company decides to advertise one product, which cannot be legally advertised, by using a surrogate product of the same brand. In such an advertisement, the substitute or surrogate product will either resemble the original product or can be a different product from the same brand.
The concept of surrogate advertisements began to promote products such as alcohol and tobacco which are legally not allowed to be advertised on TV or other media platforms in India, as per the Cable Television Network Rules, 1995. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) of India had also issued an advisory to private satellite TV channels, instructing them to ensure that liquor, tobacco, and other intoxicants are not advertised directly or indirectly on their channels.
Several brands like Diageo India’s Mc Dowell’s No 1, alcohol brand Kingfisher, and others have successfully used surrogate advertising to circumvent these rules.
Celebrities and pan masala brands
In 2018, Hollywood actor Pierce Brosnan was also entangled in a controversy when he was appointed as the brand ambassador for Pan Bahar, an Indian pan masala brand. When he was questioned about his association with the brand, the actor had told authorities that the company did not disclose the hazardous nature of the product.
The pan masala market in India reached a value of Rs 45,585 crore in 2020. Research firm IMARC Group expects the market to touch Rs 69,518 crore by 2026.