Actor Allu Arjun reportedly turned down to endorse a tobacco product, stirring a debate on responsible endorsement

Endorsing responsibly

author_img Express News Service Published :  26th April 2022 07:00 PM   |   Published :   |  26th April 2022 07:00 PM

Allu Arjun

Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar apologised to fans after endorsing a tobacco product (paan masala) recently. More than this, he drew flak from fans and critics on social media after an old photo of him promoting a cigarette brand surfaced online. A couple of days later, Tollywood star Allu Arjun is said to have turned down a similar product despite being offered a handsome deal. This has led to the rise of the much-debated topic of responsible endorsement.

But do public figures really have that kind of a responsibility on their shoulders? “Absolutely,” says Siva Cherry, the president of the Ram Charan Fans Association and executive producer at Venkatadri Talkies. “Why else would big brands offer money in lakhs to these actors. Their reach is far bigger than themselves,” he says.

He explains, “When there was no social media or Internet to bombard us with constant advertisements, fans still knew what their favourite actor used and promoted. We would make every attempt to follow them. I remember Chiranjeevi garu and Pawan Kalyan garu promoting certain carbonated soft drinks — we made it a point to empty shelves of stores selling them. We would vow to never touch other brands. Now, picture this — when both of these actors realised the harmful chemicals and sugars used in these drinks, they stopped endorsing them. Immediately, we all did too. While the actors thought of it as a healthy decision, for most of us, it was something we did blindly, knowing that they knew better.” Citing another example of actors’ influence on people, he says Ram Charan fans were loyal to buying Docomo SIMs when they were a rage a decade ago.

Rapper Roll Rida wears his love for actor Allu Arjun on his sleeves. Apart from singing and rapping for the actor’s films, he has created music videos and fan anthems dedicated to the star. “I went all the way to the markets in Secunderabad to look for a jacket that Bunny (as Allu Arjun is fondly called) wore in Happy and a T-shirt he wore in Arya. I was a kid with no income of my own, but that was how we would follow our favourite actor’s style, products and dialogues,” he says. Well, the actor’s Thaggede Le dialogue from Pushpa still rings loud months after the film’s release. “As silly as it sounds, I had picked up drinking Frooti more than I ever after Bunny started promoting it,” he laughs.

He points out that the love and regard is mutual between an actor and his fan base. “As actors go out of their way to do the right thing for their fans, the latter are comfortable with putting their faith in their hands. It’s like you know them personally and would trust them with anything,” he shares, citing the example of how Allu Arjun’s word of mouth brought the rapper from the gullies to the silver screen.

Meghana G, brand manager and strategist at Raasta Studios in Gachibowli, helps us understand the different dynamics of zeroing in on a brand ambassador. “While I highly doubt that it’s the same process when it comes to tobacco products, a brand usually approaches a public figure when they have an experience/journey similar to that of the brand or its product. Agencies later decide on drawing parallels between the two to make a compelling ad, but usually the face represents the values of the brand. The person is almost like the human variant of the product satisfying many -- right from their personality to identity, brand communication, gap and various other elements that come into play,” she explains.

Siva says the concept of ‘hero worship’ in Tollywood has always done more good than harm to fans here. “Actors don’t take up a project mindlessly by just looking at the pay cheque. They have a team that advises them about the products’ impact on their fans and various other factors,” he concludes.