Reacting to Pierce Brosnon's apology for endorsing Pan Bahaar paan masala, Piyush Pandey executive chairman and creative director of Ogilvy & Mather (India and South Asia) said on Friday that his apology “seems half hearted and sounds like a bit of a lame excuse for not knowing what it was”.
While talking to a national newspaper, Pandey added, “I hear that he has offered an apology to his fans but there is no threat to take the company to court to sue them or anything. So I don’t how serious he is about this. Only time can tell.”
Pierce Brosnan, the 007 face, in an interview with an international media house on Thursday, broke his silence on the controversy around him endorsing an Indian product called Pan Bahar Paan Masala.
In a statement, displaying his utter disappointment towards the portrayal of his image, Brosnan said, “As a man who has spent decades championing women’s healthcare and environmental protection, I was distressed to learn of Pan Bahar’s unauthorised and deceptive use of my image to endorse their range of pan masala product. I would never have entered into an agreement to promote a product in India that is dangerous to one’s health.”
Although the poster of the advertisement says that the product is "Nicotine and Tobacco free", the question arises whether Brosnan was accurately communicated about the ingredients of the product.
According to the same media report, Brosnan’s contract says he was to advertise a “breath freshener/tooth whitener,” which would not include an ingredient that turns saliva red.
He had also agreed to advertise a single product only, and that it was presented as “all natural containing neither tobacco, supari, nor any other harmful ingredient."
Then what does Pan Masala exactly contain?
By definition, Pan Masala is supposedly a mixture of betel leaf with lime (Gutkha), areca nut (Supari), clove, cardamom, mint, tobacco, and certain herbs.
Pan chewing is a tradition which dates back to thousands of years and is consumed by an estimated 200-400 million people, mainly Indo Asians and Chinese. In fact, India is the largest consumer of betel nut in the world.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) accept the scientific evidence that chewing betel quids and areca nut is carcinogenic to humans. The main carcinogenic factor is believed to be areca nut. A recent study also found that areca nut paan, with and without tobacco increased oral cancer risk by 9.9 and 8.4 times, respectively.
Not just this, back in 2012, a ban order by Maharashtra Food and Drugs Administration highlights the risk posed by magnesium carbonate (locally known as chunna) present in pan masala, which leads to hyper magnesia, and sometimes even cardiac arrest.
Even pan masala brands marketed as “100% tobacco free” contain high levels of nicotine and other chemical additives, as revealed by a study commissioned by the Ministry of Health.
So under such circumstances, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has clearly stated, “While products like Pan Masala and Supari are not banned for sale or from advertising by law, the ASCI code does not permit the use of celebrities in advertisements of products which by law require health warning on its pack or cannot be purchased or used by minors."
All Akhil Jain, CEO , Ashok & Co Pan Bahar Ltd in a report had to say was: “Pan Bahar is a premium brand and a master blend, and needed a face that supports this positioning. Brosnan is an epitome of style, maturity and sophistication.”
Did Pan Bahar manipulate Brosnan's contract?
Brosnan, who was the ultimate target by social media that gave mixed responses to his support for the Indian product, added that Pan Bahar had “grossly manipulated” advertorials with media houses to falsely present him as a brand ambassador for their line of products, which he writes is “in violation of my contract".
Brosnan has already initiated action to take down his image from all the endorsement by Pan Bahar. Meanwhile, the actor has also put out his apologies to all those he may have offended through this incident...