Sanjeev Kotnala: Does Pierce Brosnan’s class work for Pan Bahar

12 Oct,2016

By Sanjeev Kotnala


I know this is late. In today’s world, this PANBOND event is no longer the news. However, the subject is not dead as the advertising community seems polarised in commenting on it.


More has been said, commented and shared on the last Friday’s seemingly innocuous front-page press ad of Pan Bahar (PAB) that was talk of social media in India. There was a flutter in the segment hyperactive in social media. Pierce Brosnan (PB), the ex-Bond endorsing such a product. It may be noted that the 007 franchise prevents a direct reference to 007. Moreover, the brand in its different avatar is not only banned in many places but is tough to imagine him enjoying it. It’s a marketing subtle difference that the endorsed brand carries ‘mouth freshener’ tag and hence does not play foul to the suggestive industry guideline. It does not violate the recommendation that such products must not use celebrity endorsement. The brand escapes with a common advertising license to execute.


The truth remains ‘Pan Bahar’ got an opening in social media. They neither anticipated nor were they prepared for the trolls. For a change, it was the press ad and not the TVC that triggered the reaction, once again getting print an uncalled-for attention. It anyway was a full-page advertisement. Few could refuse.


There are theories about how this happened. In the famous ‘post-rationalization’ act that the industry is well known for, many would seem possible. I have no reason not to give credence to them.


It could be seen as a brilliant move by the agency to get a celebrity like Pierce Brosnan to penetrate and open a new segment. May be, it was the owners; hell-bent on scaling the celebrity mental barrier jumping from also ran Indian celebrities to a Hollywood item. Could the idea have originated from the agents of cash-strapped Pierce Brosnan making it an enticing offer tough to refuse? Or some crazy media maverick in the team suggested this as a route to get the amplified impact in social media at a far lower cost.


I am never one to jump to a conclusion. So, I did what was best possible and try getting in touch with few of the consumer. The conversations suggested that Pierce Brosnan was not exactly the right choice without the 007 tag. They do not recognise this bearded face. Most of them recall the active clean shaven look of 007. So, it does not stack-up.


If one was to evaluate this attempt as a door-opener to a completely new consumer segments and gain inroads into fashionable impressionable population, it may fail the test but is not something irregular or unexpected. Moreover, the brand has the legacy of using celebrity endorsement. Why are these so-called intellectual voices when the Indian actors continue to patronize gutka (a chewing addictive mix known for health hazards)? Oh, may be it is acceptable but why Bond of all the people endorsing this. ?


Going by the press release, it seems a genuine act of misplaced conviction. Quoting from it: Pan Bahar, a leading FMCG brand that links its identity to success, signing iconic Bollywood stars as the face of their campaign, ups its game, presenting the Bond of all commercials, shot in distant Austin, U.S.A. with none other than Pierce Brosnan.’


The act is justified by the creative behind it, ‘Our choice of Pierce Brosnan as brand ambassador for Pan Bahar is in line with our campaign idea of ‘Pehchan Kamyabi Ki’ (the mark of success). Thanks to his previous avatar as James Bond, Mr. Brosnan is seen the world over as a symbol of sophistication, suavity and success. And Pan Bahar, as his choice, reflects that aspiration in the consumer base we were targeting’ it definitely sounds genuine.


I am unsure, if the spoof and jokes erupting on the subject really work for or against the brand. May be the dice is not rolling in the way the brand would want it to, but give the credit for the brand to have attempted the unexpected.



It is not the first or the last for Indian consumer to be exposed to such an endorsement featuring Hollywood actors. It is the reaction not for the association but the brand. How could a brand like ‘Pan Bahar’ has the audacity to think and act beyond conventions?



The tagline “Pan Bahar. Class never goes out of style,” will not have many takers. I personally do not see any harm in this upward mobile attempt of the brand. Maybe what Bollywood could not do for the brand, this old Hollywood may succeed. The strategy is a bit convoluted and not on the track, but what were you expecting in this category and a brand like ‘Pan Bahar’. It is completely synergistic with the brand’s stated approach.


The known health hazards make the endorsement controversial. It is another instance where the consumer segment is aware that the endorser is most likely not a user. No issue there. Do we really have the same reaction to Indian Film actresses pushing soap?


Here is the stated rationalisation of the choice which many of us will continue to find fault with. Quote from company release “For us, the decision to bring Mr. Pierce Brosnan on board as Pan Bahar’s brand ambassador speaks volumes about our vision and ambition. His class, look, style, sophistication, facial expression and body language, etc. tell a lot about the mastery, maturity and perfection, etc. – He is like a master of various talents. Pan Bahar – a master blend stands for class, success and sophistication, etc. Hence; we see our association with Mr. Brosnan as a natural fit.”


A comment by my friend Praful Mishra puts in differently. It’s Achche Din (good days) for a desi brand and maybe not a Burrey Din (bad days) for the Hollywood stars.


The TVC or the AV is equally obnoxious.


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