Mumbai Capital

Celebrities are not responsible for brand transgressions

LOOPHOLES:In the case of Kingfisher Airlines, Yana Gupta, who endorsed the brand, cannot be fined and/or jailed for the mistakes of the management.— File photo  

A report in The Hindu BusinessLine carrying the headline, ‘Brand ambassadors may be made liable for misleading ads’ says, “Celebrity brand ambassadors may have to think twice before endorsing a product making unrealistic claims. In case the claims are proven to be untrue, they could face a jail term of five years and a fine of Rs 50 lakh — if the Centre accepts the report of a Parliamentary Committee on changes in the Consumer Protection Bill.”It is astonishing that this concept seems to have been discussed and debated to a great extent, and, presumably, the majority in the Parliamentary Committee are in agreement with the proposed changes.

How on earth can the brand endorser be responsible for the failure of a product or service? The business he or she promotes is a legal entity, with various government arms, at the Centre and the state, awarding various permissions and licences, and earning revenues through taxes, duties and cesses.

Thereafter, the marketer takes over, creating the communication that makes the consumer aware of the product or service.

Here too, the brand endorser has no responsibility. Marketers and their communication partners adhere to the guidelines of the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). All ads in India, whatever the medium, come under the purview of ASCI. ASCI has successfully fought against, and stopped, misleading and irresponsible advertising, for decades now.

In many categories such as mutual funds and insurance, government or quasi government bodies have the final say, indeed a veto power, on every single word in the communication.

In some instances, government bodies are quasi-endorsers. For example, it is a government body that clears an initial public offering.

It is the certification by the government body that gives the consumer the confidence to invest in the offering. If the company fails, can the Securities and Exchange Board of India be treated as a brand endorser?

What of ratings companies? Can Crisil be deemed to be a brand endorser if the consumer’s confidence is based on a positive Crisil rating?

In the case of Kingfisher Airlines, would Yana Gupta, who endorsed the brand, be fined and/or jailed for the various sins of commission and omission of the Kingfisher Airlines management?

It is practically impossible for the brand endorser to certify with any degree of confidence and knowledge that a consumer will never get food poisoning at a restaurant he endorses or that no part will fail in a car that he signs up with or that the builder he supports will deliver as promised.

It is not for the brand ambassador to certify these; only those who grant licences and permissions can do so.

The proposed changes are ill thought-through and half- baked, and if they become real, we can say goodbye to brand endorsement in India. However, because the report is so shallow, there are loopholes that exist.

Celebrities will cease to be endorsers and choose to be called mere actors and models. Hopefully, actors and models are not liable to be fined or jailed for transgressions by brands that hire them to act and model.

If actors and models too can be held liable, it’s goodbye to advertising as we know it.

The writer is Editor, Storyboard

Celebrities will cease to be endorsers and choose to be called mere actors

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2022 6:50:24 AM |

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