Mumbai: The association was intended to make waves, and it did for all the wrong reasons. Earlier this month, gobsmacked users trolled Pan Bahar, the indigenous mouth freshener brand, over its association with one of the most iconic James Bond actors of all time, Pierce Brosnan. Now, it looks as though the endorsement has left Bond, shaken and stirred, as well. In a report which appeared on People.com on Thursday, Brosnan said that he was “deeply shocked and saddened” about the events following his controversial participation in the endorsement of Pan Bahar.
In the report, published on the website for People magazine, an American weekly from Time Inc., Brosnan said that he had the greatest love and affection for India and its people. “As a man who has spent decades championing women’s healthcare and environmental protection, I was distressed to learn of Pan Bahar’s unauthorized and deceptive use of my image to endorse their range of pan masala products,” the report said.
Brosnan’s statement, as quoted by the report, went on to clarify that his contract detailed that he was to advertise a “breath freshener/tooth whitener”, which wouldn’t include an ingredient that turns saliva red. Moreover, the statement emphasised, that he agreed to advertise a single product only, and that it was presented as “all-natural containing neither tobacco, supari, nor any other harmful ingredient”.
“Having endured, in my own personal life, the loss of my first wife and daughter as well as numerous friends to cancer, I am fully committed to supporting women’s healthcare and research programs that improve human health and alleviate suffering,” he said.
According to the report, the James Bond actor demanded that the company remove his image from all their products, as Pan Bahar had “grossly manipulated” media outlets to falsely present him as a brand ambassador for their entire line of products, which was “in violation of my contract”.
On their part, Ashok and Co. Pan Bahar Ltd, which manufactures ethnic Indian pan masala and other tobacco products, is doing its best to put out the fire. “There is some confusion. Wait for a few days… we are in touch with Mr. Brosnan and his team and hope to sort the matter out as soon as possible,” said Akhil Jain, chief executive officer, Ashok and Co. Pan Bahar, a company which has a turnover of Rs.230 crore.
The company had roped in Brosnan to use the association to create a premium image for the brand. Early in October, the ads were launched with much fanfare on the front pages of all major newspapers and across television channels, as well as outdoor media. The campaign, which was created by DDB Mudra, and shot in Austin, Texas, by Indian American filmmaker Chakri Toleti, showed Brosnan knocking off enemies with a tin of Pan Bahar. The ad ended with the tag line: “Pan Bahar, class never goes out of style.” Interestingly, the spot never showed Brosnan consuming the product.
The company had hoped that the association would help it improve its current market share of 20% in the premium segment dominated by competitor Rajnigandha.
But the association which has apparently left Brosnan with a bad aftertaste, has set social media buzzing again. On Friday morning, following Brosnan’s statement to People.com, Twitter was abuzz with his reaction, some exhibiting disbelief at his reaction. “Pan Bahar Mystery Deepens like a Bond movie,” said user Prabhakar Mundkur.
“I was unconvinced about this association right from the beginning, because it made no sense for the demographic they were addressing. One has to be careful, while picking a celebrity to endorse a brand. These decisions cannot be led by short-term goals or vanity,” said Anirban Das Blah, managing director, Kwan Entertainment and Marketing Solutions. He added that he could not emphasise more on the need to go through the right channels while engaging with celebrities. “You have to go through all the fine print to make sure everyone is on the same page,” he said.