Celebrity branding has been a time tested campaign mode for the last several decades. Direct endorsement and even surrogate ads create a sense of authenticity for the product. At the same time, there have been several criticisms against these celebrity endorsements. The major allegation was that the celebrities take little responsibility for the quality of the product, whether it is a safety pin, soap, shampoo, beverage or a high end Sports Utility Vehicle. Moreover, they may not be even using the brands they are endorsing. But at the other end, the customers go after the product, blindly attracted to his or her popularity and believing the words of the sports star or film stars in the ad. When we analyze it closely, a certain amount of cheating is involved in these endorsements.
Numerous issues related to celebrity branding have led to a thought of even establishing a censoring mechanism for ads. There have been several law suits in the courts, challenging the quality of products and hollow claims in advertisements.
Do brand ambassadors be made liable for misleading ads? When the company and advertisement agencies are solely responsible for the service/product quality and the ad concept respectively, the celebrities stands as an appropriate medium to promote the concept. A large number of customers tend to blindly believe brands promoted by celebrities, purely out of the emotional bonding with them. Owing to this reason, the stars cannot runway from their responsibility to these customers. In this scenario, whether stars have to be penalized for the misleading advertisements need to be pondered over by considering every side of the topic. Noting that celebrities honoured with Padma awards are brand ambassadors of several products, the subject has to be well-considered to eradicate this unfavorable inclination in the advertising industry.
Reportedly, the government has said that a Parliamentary Committee’s recommendation of penalties against endorsers of misleading advertisements is under consideration. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution recommends a fine of Rs. 1 million and imprisonment up to two years or both for first time offence and fine of Rs. 5 million and imprisonment for five years for the second time offence for celebrity endorsers.
The crux of all these is that, stringent provisions to tackle misleading advertisements, as well as to fix liability on endorsers/celebrities are soon to be enforced. An execution wing of the government will be entrusted to monitor the credibility of the advertisements as well as it would not be open to a consumer to independently press charges against the ambassador in a court for false and misleading ads. Prior to implementing all these measures, it is very significant for the government to clarify the definitions relating to misleading, false and objectionable advertisements.