Morals over money

Published Jun 12, 2018, 12:00 am IST
Updated Jun 12, 2018, 12:22 am IST
Should money be the only driving force for India’s icons when it comes to promoting a product?
Priyanka Chopra
 Priyanka Chopra

It’s no secret that celebrities wield a great degree of influence. And brands cash in on this. Consumers tend to believe in the products promoted by their favourite stars. Which is why celebrities need to be vigilant when associating with brands. 

Amitabh Bachchan
After Horlicks extended its support to the Centre’s recently launched National Nutrition Mission aimed at addressing the issue of undernutrition in the country, a group of public health experts have urged superstar Amitabh Bachchan to dissociate himself from promoting the brand. The experts, under the banner of the Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest — India, in a letter to the actor said, “Horlicks is a high sugar product as 100 gm of a popularly advertised pack of Horlicks Delight contains 78 gm of carbohydrates, of which 32 gm is sucrose sugar. This is harmful for children as it may contribute to childhood obesity and non-communicable disease later in life.” While no official statement has been made by Big B, the letter of the experts has started a debate with many wondering whether stars should associate themselves with brands just for money or also look at what they are selling.


“In our country, our film stars are treated like demigods. Over half the population tends to think that these stars can do no wrong. So if a star asks you to buy something, the product will be the best. We place an unreasonable amount of trust and faith in these celebrities, sometimes forgetting that they are just doing this to earn their bread and butter,” explains Kavyal Sedani, a well-known image consultant. “However, I feel the seasoned celebrities are no longer advertising anything just for money. We have seen celebs like Virat Kohli and Pullela Gopichand not promoting products they think are not healthy for the consumers. For them, it’s about faith and trust and maintaining a connect with their fans. Doing a thorough background check has become very important for the stars as they are judged by millions of people.”


Priyanka Chopra 
The actress who was earlier associated with Nirav Modi, was trolled mercilessly after the scandal. And now, she’s at the receiving end of criticism for an episode on her show Quantico. The episode in question showed a Hindu terrorist organisation planning an attack in Manhattan to frame arch-rival Pakistan. Indian fans flooded Twitter with tweets denouncing Chopra.  While it may be true that Priyanka is just an actress and doesn’t have anything to do with the script or direction of the serial, the star should have been more responsible in accepting such a script. 


Priyanka’s apology
“I’m extremely saddened and sorry that some sentiments have been hurt by a recent episode of Quantico. That was not and would never be my intention. I sincerely apologise. I’m a proud Indian and that will never change,” she tweeted.

Sania Mirza

Research and advocacy organisation, Centre For Science and Environment (CSE) recently urged tennis ace Sania Mirza to publicly disassociate from a poultry advertisement saying it has been declared as misleading by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). “You are an icon for the youth of India. Millions of young women and men aspire to emulate your success. They are influenced by your actions and messages. Having said this, we are deeply disappointed that you have associated yourself with a blatantly false and misleading advertorial (sic),” the letter sent to her by Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of CSE, had said.


Having received national film awards and the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award, the actress represents the country globally. ABC Studios and executive producers of Quantico, have issued an apology for the same.  “ABC Studios and the executive producers of Quantico would like to extend an apology to our audience who were offended by the most recent episode, The Blood of Romeo. The episode has stirred a lot of emotion, much of which is unfairly aimed at Priyanka Chopra, who didn’t create the show, nor does she write or direct it. She has no involvement in the casting of the show or the storylines depicted in the series (sic).”


Priyanka too apologised. “I’m extremely saddened and sorry that some sentiments have been hurt by a recent episode of Quantico. That was not and would never be my intention. I sincerely apologise. I’m a proud Indian and that will never change (sic),” she tweeted. But it was a bit too late. Many still question how she went ahead with a script like that.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Former Team India captain’s impeccable image took a beating when he became the brand ambassador for Amrapali Group, a company that defaulted leaving many investors in the lurch.  Dhoni finally disassociated from Amrapali Group but that came a little too late, after the damage was done. 


It’s a tricky business

Throwing light on the matter, Piyush Pandey, co-executive chairman and national creative director of Ogilvy & Mather India and vice-chairman of O&M Asia-Pacific, says, “Advertising is a tricky business. You need to understand your brand, market, customer and then figure out which celebrity best suits your brand. The fact that so many brands attach themselves to a star is enough to prove that star value helps the brand market itself better. Incidents such as Priyanka or Dhoni being trolled — for Nirav Modi and Amrapali Group respectively — are very stupid, because celebs can associate themselves with brands which are doing well currently. No one knows the future. But having said that, the celebrities must choose their endorsements wisely because if the brand goes down, the star’s image will also be impacted negatively.” 


Experts also point out that a correct partnership between the product and star can help the brand value of both. Shedding light on the same, Aditya Hitkari, founder, Balancing Act, says, “Endorsements are about the right partnerships and associations for both the brands and the celebrities.  “In many instances, the right celebrity has helped increase awareness (Amitabh Bachchan and Polio Vaccination Campaign) and sales. Sometimes even with the right intentions, the association is not perfect. Then, both the brand and the celebrity have to assess the response and decide the way forward.”


“Dear Ms. Priyanka you are admired in India for your acting and people expect a certain level of discretion in what you say on the screen also since you are a cultural ambassador of the country, you just can’t be cavalier in your approach (sic).”

“I hope you will help make this a teachable moment & invite your Quantico colleagues to a dialogue with the Hindu & Indian American community which has been fighting racism in Simpsons /Apu, CNN Believer, Textbooks, Academia etc (sic).”