In an animated 20-second clip, a young man dressed in a sharp suit rides the most tech-savvy motorcycle on a mountainous range as he saves a school bus that has just been hijacked. The evil driver takes the student-filled bus off-road as the man on the motorcycle attacks him with guns attached to his bike that eject colourful candies. The driver succumbs and the day is saved. “Cadbury’s Presents Gems Bond—Non-stop excitement!”
This is the story of a much-loved ad for Cadbury’s Gems, a product that is as old as the Rajdhani Express in India, dating back to 1969.
While “My name is Bond, James Bond” has become an iconic line the world over thanks to the Bond movie franchise, Cadbury un-inspiringly adopted it to launch a series of marketing campaigns in the late 1980s and 90s. The Gems Bond series primarily revolved around television commercials in which the titular character saves the day in various ways with powers he derives by popping a different coloured gem every time.
Gems Bond did go beyond TV commercials as well – a comic book around the product was launched, but it failed to make a lasting impression.
The coated chocolate has been a part of many generations’ childhood memories. Remembering the Gems Bond ad, Tanmay V. Pangam, who describes himself as an accidental writer, tells ThePrint, “The ads of those times had a innocence and happiness to them.”
Pangam, who is a regular blogger, recalls his childhood memories associated with Gems in one of his posts: “Their colourful appearance, the sound they make when you shake the packet, that distinctive crunch when you bite into them – everything is instantly recognisable,” he writes.
Speaking of the numerous fights that have ensued in many households among children of the ’90s, he reminisces fondly about the single coveted blue Gem in an entire packet. “Even to this day, I don’t know if it tasted different or it was just the unique hue. But open up a pack of Gems today and the same fights erupt – only now they’re between a mid-thirties me and sub-five-year-old nieces and nephews.”
It is not surprising that Cadbury got into legal trouble for this series of ads. The brand was served a legal notice by the UK-based Broccoli family — owners of Danjaq LLC, producers and copyright owners of the James Bond film series since 1992 — for alleged copyright infringement.
Danjaq claimed that the name Gems Bond “can’t be a matter of coincidence and shows clear dishonesty to illegally cash in upon the long-established goodwill and reputation of James Bond.” The company further alleged that “it is intentional and is fraught with risk of damage to our reputation.”
However, the legal notice came much after the commercials were released. In fact, it came after they were already taken down. “We launched the ad campaign long back. It’s now off air. I feel completely clueless about it now,” said Piyush Pandey, who was responsible for coming up with the idea. “Next we may hear Brooke Bond suing James Bond since the tea brand is much older,” he added jokingly.
The case had no merit because the commercial was taken down five years before it was even filed and the Indian Penal Code gives a three-year time statute of limitations before an infringement case can be filed. “At best, the ad can be a parody on James Bond, which is allowed by law,” said Cadbury India’s legal counsel Chander M Lall.
Danjaq’s allegations against Cadbury are interesting in the context of Delhi-based Neeraj Food Products (NFP), who were sued for copying Gems. “NFP’s usage of James Bond is likely to confuse children. It shows dishonest conduct on NFP’s part,” Mr Lall adds. Ironically, it took NFP getting sued for Danjaq to wake up and file the legal notice against Cadbury. “It is not understood how (you) —a pirate, can dare file a frivolous suit against a third party,” Danjaq LLC said.
But for most people, the legality is unimportant. What’s important is those multicoloured pieces of joy.