Friday, June 05, 2015

Bus do minute

The past few days have seen Nestle getting intense negative publicity across media on the presence of high levels of MSG and lead in the ubiquitous Maggi Noodles.

Quite a few state governments across the country have placed a temporary ban on Maggi noodles. Metro, Big Bazaar, Wal-Mart and others have pulled Maggi Noodles off their shelves. 

In the midst of all this the Kerala Food Safety Department has announced that Maggi packets contain lead within the permissible limits. I wonder what the upshot would be if other state governments also report similar test results. Would this issue die a quiet death or would it get politicized like most issues in India are wont to do?

Either way here is a perfect recipe for a corporate pot boiler.

However, surprisingly, it is not the ban on Maggi or the attendant health related issues that interest me currently. Serious as these issues are, I have been fascinated by only one aspect of this issue – Celebrity Endorsement.  

A district court in Muzzafarpur directed the police to file an FIR against Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta for endorsing Maggi. The thought seems to be that celebrities ought to be more responsible about the brands they endorse. This is so probably because we, those who revere these celebrities, blindly buy products just because they are endorsed by one celebrity or the other.  

Honestly, if we Indians are buying some products only because of celebrity endorsement then we are a nation of absolute dimwits. If such is the situation, India has a much bigger problem than MSG in noodles.

Sure a celebrity endorsing a brand gets my attention and helps the company break through the clutter. An SRK sitting prettily in a bath tub attracts my attention. Ads by celebrities sometimes amuse me and at other times they bring about a sense of WTH. However, at no point do I make a beeline to the nearest store to buy the product that is being endorsed. I am fairly certain that this would be the case with most of us.  

Give this context I find it rather offensive when experts insinuate that we make choices of which packaged food product we eat because a celebrity endorsed it. Kids might be swayed by such advertisement but surely not adults. Surely as adults we know we should feed ourselves and our kids what is good for us while keeping in mind what we like to have.

If we do not know all this then we deserve this little crisis. I am sorry, but it is Buyer Beware  – every single time. Unless of course the company has falsified claims, in which case government agencies should come into play.

There is also this brouhaha in some quarters about the need for a celebrity to be socially responsible. What utter nonsense is that? As far as I am concerned there is only one parameter to judge them on – legality. Is the company that hired them allowed to manufacture, distribute, advertise and sell its products? If it is then there should be no issue with celebrities advertising that product. They are just professionals who are working for the company that has hired their services. That is about all.

With specific reference to Maggi, why are we not talking of social responsibilities of the other actors in the ads? The logic here seems to be more in the nature of, hey you are famous and you are endorsing a brand and therefore you ought to have a social conscience.

I think this is outright hypocrisy.

Do we expect professionals in any field to stop working for an organization if it has been found guilty of malpractices? No, we don’t. Then why hound the celebs?

I believe celebrity endorsers are merely professionals who have been contracted to do a particular job. They are not doing this to ‘save the world, they are merely doing these ads to earn money. There is absolutely no “social responsibility” angle to it and we must not try to pin this nonsense on the celebs. When one buys a product endorsed by film stars one should do one’s own damn due diligence and buy and use the product only if one is satisfied. Our experts should just leave it at that. 


Ranjeet Gouni said...

While I do agree with you that celebs are doing their professional work hired by the companies and they are earning their money which is an absolute fundamental right. But should we also not appreciate the clebs who chose not endorse a product because they felt it is harmful to the society. Take the case of Kangana Ranaut who refused to do a beauty enhancing product terming it Racial and against their ethics. We also have an example of the celeb from one among us Gopi Chand who refused to endorse soft drinks endorsements from a Major MNC terming it harmful to the society. In a country with half the population ( I would chose the word Paltry educated) where even the so called educated take many decisions not on reason, I am sure Celeb endrosments do influence the purchase decisions. Like Mr.Amitab endorsing Maggi will give credibility to the product. Here I am not supporting the court's decision of penalising the celbs which is utter non-sense but we expect the celebs to be little more careful in endorsing the products. Here again I am not referring to Maggi and I do not expect the celeb to check whether the company is following all the legal standards or not. But due to their special status they should be careful in endorsing the society and endorse only those products which they believe and have faith. Here I am talking about celebs endorsing Gutkas...etc. Celebs in our country enjoy a special place and they should use their status responsibly as do not do things based only on earning money only.

Anonymous said...

Celebrities in general should not be held responsible for the products they endorse. But the case varies from place to place. India is a country with rural population more than the its Urban part. And I assume the literacy rate in rural India is not up to the mark such that people can understand the implications of certain ingredients which could be harmful unless the message is spread among them. Thus, they blindly believe in buying the products that are endorsed by famous celebrities. As India is on its path of development, the change might bring a shift from blind belief to reality but that transition may take time. So, I do feel, in a country like India, it should be a social responsibility of the person endorsing the product to endorse right products for the community.