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May 01, 2016
Endorsements issue: Unfair to blame celebrities for misleading ads, say brand gurusWith a parliamentary standing committee calling for stringent penal provisions to make celebrities who hawk brands accountable for misleading advertisements, industry experts feel it is unfair to single out celebs for such mishappenings. The Parliamentary Panel on Consumer Affairs, in its recommendations on the Consumer Protection Bill, 2015, has called for stringent provisions, including jail term up to five years and penalty of up to Rs 50 lakh if a celebrity endorsed product misfires. "I agree that celebs should accept endorsements with a certain amount of responsibility. But it is unfair to make them accountable for products/ads as the subject is technical and requires sound understanding of science as its related to the ingredients of the product and consequent claims," said Madison World chairman Sam Balsara. The committee wants that for first time offence, the celeb in question must be penalised with either a fine of Rs 10 lakh or imprisonment up to two years or both. For the second offence, the fine should be increased to Rs 50 lakh and imprisonment up to five years. For subsequent offences, the penalties may be increased proportionately based on the value of sales of the product/ service in question. After Nestles Maggi noodles were banned by the foods regulator last year for allegedly containing excess lead and the additive monosodium glutamate (MSG), there were many voices demanding accountability from brand endorsers. Some of the noodle brands endorsers included actors Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta. The domestic celebrity endorsement market is worth around Rs 5,000-7,500 crore and is growing at a fast clip. But its future looks uncertain with many in the government and Parliament baying for the blood of celebrities who earn most of their incomes from such brand endorsements. Top male celebrities charge anywhere between Rs 12 crore and Rs 25 crore per annum for each endorsement, while their female peers get half of that at Rs 6-12 crore per annum for endorsement, according to industry estimate. On an average, top celebrities endorse as many 8-12 brands. According to Anirban Das Blah, managing director of talent management agency Kwan that handles brand endorsements for top Bollywood stars like Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor, the recommendation makes no sense as celebs dont have the expertise to whet the quality of the product they endorse. "No celebrity has the means to verify what the brand is saying, and they dont run testing labs. What they have is a legally binding document. Almost every endorsement has a contract which warrants that it is making no false representation of any sort in its advertising," he said.