Pan Bahar has attracted more attention than its custodians may have expected after its film featuring former Bond Pierce Brosnan went live. Following criticism for endorsing a product that is perceived to carry serious health risk (cancer), Brosnan clarified his side of the story to a magazine, which has since been picked up and analysed globally.
Brosnan claimed that he was 'shocked and saddened' and apologised to Indians he has offended by endorsing Pan Bahar. He further clarified that as per contract, he was to endorse a 'breath freshener/tooth whitener', 'containing neither tobacco, supari, nor any other harmful ingredient'.
Speaking with Campaign India, Akhil Jain, CEO of Pan Bahar, explained that the contract was only for Pan Bahar, which is a pan masala and contains neither nicotine nor tobacco. While he refused to go into the details of the contract, we know from the website that the product does contain supari, as do all pan masalas.
"We have not violated any contract," said Jain. The company has since decided to carry on with the advertising featuring Brosnan. But the CEO added that while the campaign has been released in line with the contract, there will be a board meeting post Diwali (early November) to decide on the way forward.
He added, "Things happened as per contract so we don't see any need of pulling the film down. I have seen the media and his statements. But, we haven't got any direct statement from him or his team. We are waiting for some clarifications and will then take a call accordingly."
According to the CEO, the film and the association with Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is working for the brand. "In my view, the negative response is because of the category (we operate in). Critics are sharing these negative responses. The masses are appreciating this campaign. People are recognising Bond and the association with him is helping us for sure. Controversies happen, but I'd like to repeat that there is no violation of the contract we signed with him. In the media, people are talking about tobacco. We need to clarify this. This product doesn't have tobacco or nicotine. There’s a misconception," said Jain.
In India, it is not illegal to advertise pan masalas and several Bollywood stars continue to endorse them. But advertising products containing tobacco is not allowed by law. Pan Bahar is a brand of pan masala, but the group also sells other brands containing tobacco.
Brosnan's contract and film are only for Pan Bahar, according to Jain. While the contract is for two years, it only covers one ad film.
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