- The government has made it mandatory for celebrities and social media influencers to disclose their material interest while endorsing any product, service or brand.
- Any violation will attract strict legal action, including ban on the endorsement.
- This has been announced by the Consumer Affairs Ministry as part of the new guidelines named ‘’Endorsement Know Hows’.
In this article, we’ll try to understand more about its objective, what the details entail on the disclosures, penalties on violations and the way forward towards effective implementation.
What is Endorsement?
- Endorsements are a form of advertising that uses famous personalities or celebrities who command a high degree of recognition, trust, respect or awareness amongst the people.
- Such people advertise for a product lending their names or images to promote a product or service.
- Advertisers and clients hope such approval, or endorsement by a celebrity, will influence buyers favourably.
- For example, Sachin Tendulkar endorsing motorcycles and biscuits can influence young men or children who look to him as role model.
Endorsement Know Hows: To whom it is aimed for?
- These rules mandate endorsers – which include celebrities, social media influencers and the virtual influencers – to behave responsibly.
- The government hopes these rules will act as a deterrent against misleading advertisements and unfair trade practices.
Celebrity Endorsement: A quick backgrounder
- Last year, the department of consumer affairs published Guidelines for the Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022.
- The criteria for valid advertisements are outlined in these guidelines, as are the responsibilities of manufacturers, service providers, advertisers, and advertising agencies.
- These guidelines also addressed celebrities and endorsers.
- It states that misleading advertising in any form, format, or medium is illegal.
Why need such policy?
- Manipulating consumer behaviour: India is a country where stars are idolized and worshipped. Marketers use them so as to influence their existing or potential customers to succeed and reap huge profit.
- Celebrity-brand disconnect: There are also cases where celebrities are blamed for not performing due diligence on brands they end up endorsing.
- Competition promotion: A small brand would get badly hit by statements like the one made by Bachchan, unlike a larger brand that is on equal footing with a well-known celebrity.
- Ensuring consumer rights: The new guidelines are in alignment with the Consumer Protection Act, of 2019, which was enacted to protect consumers from unfair trade practices and deceptive advertising.
- Global examples: Countries such as the UK, Ireland and Belgium have specifically banned celebrity endorsement of unhealthy foods. The impact of such restrictions has been reported to be significant.
Key highlights of the recent guidelines
- Intent declaration: Any celebrity, influencer, or virtual influencer with an access to influence audience and their purchasing decisions must disclose any material connection to the advertiser.
- Disclosures of the deals: This include monetary or other compensation, trips or hotel stays, media bartering, coverage and awards, free products with or without conditions, discounts, gifts, and any family, personal, or employment relationship.
- Disclaimers: A disclaimer shall be in the same language as the claim made in the advertisement and the font used in a disclaimer shall be the same as that used in the claim.
- Communication ease: Endorsements must be made in simple, clear language, and terms like ‘advertisement,’ ‘sponsored,’ or ‘paid promotion’ are permitted.
- Due research about the product: The celebrity or influencer should not endorse any product or service that has not been thoroughly researched by them or that they have not personally used or experienced.
Why do companies resort to celebrities for endorsement?
- Instant brand awareness: People will begin associating the celebrity with the brand, meaning the brand is more recognizable, building stronger brand awareness.
- Build brand equity: Celebrities are perceived to hold qualities such as attractiveness, expertise, trustworthiness and likeability, which advertisers hope will be transferred to the brand or product.
- Persuading customers: Celebrities in advertising make the advertisement more noticeable to some consumers, and are therefore a good basis of capturing and retaining consumer attention.
- Capturing celebrity cult: Many consumers idolize celebrities and strive to imitate their lives with the clothes they wear and products they consume.
- Lasting Publicity: Even after the endorsement deal is over, consumers will still associate the brand with the celebrity.
- Create social impact: Celebrity is presumed to be more passionate about the product and would therefore promote the product in a believable way that consumers would find more persuasive. Ex. Polio campaign by AB.
Ethical principles involved
There are several ethical principles that are typically considered when evaluating the use of celebrity endorsements for certain products. Some of these include:
- Honesty and Transparency: Celebrity endorsements should be honest and transparent, and should not mislead or deceive consumers. This includes making sure that any claims made in the endorsement are truthful and can be substantiated.
- Responsibility and Respect: Celebrity endorsements should be responsible and respectful towards the public, and should not promote products or behaviours that are harmful or dangerous.
- Fairness and Non-discrimination: Celebrity endorsements should be fair and non-discriminatory, and should not exploit or marginalize certain groups of people.
- Transparency of Relationship: Celebrity endorsements should be transparent about the nature of the relationship between the celebrity and the product or company being endorsed. This is important to avoid conflicts of interest and to maintain the trust of consumers.
- Social Responsibility: Celebrity endorsements should promote socially responsible products and causes, and should support the well-being of communities and the environment.
- Cultural Sensitivity: Celebrity endorsements should be culturally sensitive and should not perpetuate stereotypes or harmful cultural narratives.
- Legal and regulatory compliance: Celebrity endorsements should comply with all relevant laws and regulations, including those related to advertising and marketing.
It’s important to note that these principles are not always mutually exclusive, and that different situations may require different considerations.
- Authenticity of use: Celebrity endorsement exploits our rationality. Usage of by famous Celebrities may look unethical when he is a non-user of the product.
- Tarnished image: Celebrity endorsements are unethical when the people involved in any controversies in their life endorse the product reflecting their negative image poorly on the brand so endorsed. Ex. Perfumes ad casualizing women’s modesty.
- Unsafe or ineffective product endorsement: Unethical aspects pave the way again when celebrities endorse some products which are hazardous to society. Ex. Darr ke aage jeet hai!
- Compel to buy unwanted products: There are chances wherein celebrities indirectly drive consumers’ impulsive buying behaviour resulting in the purchase of unnecessary/harmful products. Ex. Bolo Zubaan Kesri!!
- Misleading information: When celebrities say something deceptive / make false claims then the endorsement is lacking in ethics. Ex. Fairness creams and the notion of beauty.
- Conflict of interest: When a particular ad conflicts with the celebrity’s image, principles, interests etc., the Celebrity is totally money-minded, hence the ethical implications can be very serious. Ex. Pan masala ad glorifying tobacco for individual success.
- Override expert opinion: It is especially unethical when a celebrity endorsement overtakes the expert judgment. i.e. when he interjects his non-expert opinion he undermines the opinion of more qualified individuals. Ex. Liquors promotion!
Way forward for the Celebrities
- Consider supporting causes rather than organisations.
- Have a genuine connection to the brand. Use the organisation’s product or services.
- Do due diligence to ensure the organisation’s ethics are in line with own beliefs.
- Have an exit clause if the organisation’s values no longer align or fails.
- Ensure relationship with the organisation is disclosed in adverts and social posts..
- Celebrities symbolize knowledge, belief and aspiration in the eyes of consumers.
- It is necessary for the enterprise and the celebrity that to consider all ethical considerations prior to publicly supporting a product or service.
- Hence celebrities have to possess a sense of moral and ethical responsibility while endorsing any product whether it is consumable or any or product.