India: Surrogate Advertisements In India – May 2018

In the words of advertising tycoon Leo Burnett, "Let's gear our advertising to sell goods but let's recognize also that advertising has a broad social responsibility."

SURROGATE ADVERTISEMENTS: DEFINITION

Merriam Webster defines a Surrogate as a 'substitute'. And surrogate advertisements are just that. A surrogate advertisement can be defined as an advertisement that duplicates the brand image of one product to promote another product of the same brand. The surrogate or substitute could either resemble the original product or could be a different product altogether but it is marketed under the established brand name of the original product. Surrogate advertisements are used to promote and advertise products of brands when the original product cannot be advertised on mass media. Some instances of surrogate advertisements are: Bagpiper Soda, Cassettes and CDs, Royal Challenge Golf Accessories and Mineral Water, Imperial Blue Cassettes and CDs etc.

FUNCTION OF SURROGATE ADVERTISEMENTS.

Ever since advertising of tobacco and liquor products have been banned on Mass Media, these companies have resorted to surrogate advertising tactics to keep their brands alive in the minds of consumers. The most important function of a surrogate advertisement is that of brand-recall. A surrogate advertisement advertises other market commodities without alluding to tobacco or liquor but under the same brand.

Surrogate advertising came into India in the mid-1990s after the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 read with Cable television Rules, 1994, came into force, which banned direct liquor, tobacco and cigarette advertisements.1 Before that the Cigarettes (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act,1975 made it mandatory to display a statutory health warning on all packages and advertisements. Advertisements have a strong influence in the minds of consumers especially in this era of new age technology. Banning direct advertisements about liquor and tobacco was a step ahead by the Government to curb the influence of such advertisements on the public and effectively diminish the ill effects of these products in general. Therefore Surrogate Advertisements by these liquor and tobacco companies defeat the very purpose of this ban.

Launching new products with a common brand name is known as brand extensions and is not per se illegal or objectionable in nature. The problem arises when a brand extension is carried out in response to a ban on advertisement of one product category.

SURROGATE ADVERTISEMENTS IN INDIA:

In India, Surrogate Advertisements are done mainly in the tobacco and liquor industry. This is a direct consequence of the ban on direct advertisements of tobacco and liquor. Therefore to promote and advertise their products to the masses, Liquor and tobacco found a way around the ban through surrogate ads. The banned product (alcohol or cigarettes) is not projected directly to consumers but rather masked under another product under the same brand name so that whenever there is a mention of that brand, people start associating it with its main product.

Brands like Kingfisher, Wills actually bank upon such ads to draw attention to their other products. For instance, Kingfisher has promoted everything from bottled water, to soda to calendar under the umbrella of the brand name 'Kingfisher'. Former Union Health Minister Mr. Anbumani Ramadoss had challenged the name of the Bangalore Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket team, "Royal Challengers", which was an out and out blatant surrogate advertisement for the liquor brand "Royal Challenge". But the Supreme Court of India has since pointed out that the team was not named 'Royal Challenge', the liquor brand BUT "Royal Challengers". 'Only those who drink can be attracted by these things,' the bench observed in a lighter vein, alluding to the fact that a name would not have any effect on non-drinkers.2

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Footnotes

1 Rule 7(2)(viii) of the Cable Television Rules,1994

2 https://sports.ndtv.com/cricket/now-ramadoss-challenges-bangaloreipl-team-over-name-1605911

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