James Bond is now endorsing a 50-year-old Indian pan masala brand

Quartz india
Quartz india

James Bond seems to have taken a bit of a career detour.

On Oct. 7, English and regional language dailies in India carried front-page advertisements splashed with images of a bearded Pierce Brosnan, best known for playing the suave secret service agent, holding a pack of pan masala. In a television commercial released on the same day, the Irish actor is seen using a tin of Pan Bahar, a pan masala brand, as a 007-ish weapon. “Class never goes out of style,” he says in the ad produced by DDB-Mudra.

Brosnan has been roped in by the New Delhi-based DJ Group to endorse its 50-year-old pan masala brand, Pan Bahar, that also supposedly sells the world’s most expensive. Pan masala is a grated version of the traditional betel leaf-arecanut combination popular in South Asia. It often also contains cardamom, sandalwood oil, and other such flavoring ingredients.

Predictably, social media was abuzz over the Bond-ish twist:

DJ Group’s subsidiary, Ashok & Co. Pan Bahar, was established in 1936 in the northern Indian city of Kanpur. Back then, its founder, Ratanlal Jain, is said to have traversed the length and breadth of India to find the right ingredients to make Pan Bahar. In 1966, the company began selling the brand in small, blue-colored tin boxes.

Fifty years later, the company, now headed by Dinesh Jain, is looking beyond run-of-the-mill Bollywood celebrities to endorse its products. Earlier, Hindi movie actors such as Saif Ali Khan and Feroz Khan did the honors.

Pan Bahar isn’t the first Indian brand Brosnan has endorsed. He starred in an ad for menswear brand Reid & Taylor in the early 2000s. And Pan Bahar isn’t the only brand using foreign celebrity pitchmen these days. Cellphone handset maker Micromax, for instance, roped in Hugh Jackman in 2013, and popular cricketers and football players have featured in ads for PepsiCo India.

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