Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Surrogate advertizing is boldly used by alcohol companies in India to advertize their brand

Mineral water, sodas, music and sports franchises are among the common avenues taken by alcohol manufacturers to advertise their brands in India.

Some of these ads are very attractive and creates a long recall value in the mind of the viewers. It is obvious from the ads that they brands are not promoting water or soda but instead indirectly marketing their alcohol.

There is lack of clarity about how ‘surrogate advertising’ can be monitored in the absence of overarching legislation.

At the Centre, the buck is passed on between ministries and sometimes to respective States. This is even as consumer activists urging the Government to frame a central legislation, even if effective implementation will rest with the State Governments. In fact, the self-regulating Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) already has a code on brand extension.

Surrogate advertising is not allowed as per law but Government is currently not taking any legal action against liquor brands that violate these and are habitual offenders.

Regulation of such advertising appeared to fall under the jurisdiction of at least five Ministries – Consumer Affairs, Health, Information & Broadcasting (I&B), IT and Social Justice and Empowerment. There are ambiguous court rulings on the matter where alcohol manufacturers state that the logo is the identity of the brand and using it on products other than alcohol is a legitimate business activity. So it’s mainly down to legal interpretation and in time will need to be settled by courts to establish a stated position.

Any concerted effort to clamp down on the practice would have to be led by the Health Ministry, which took the lead in curbing cigarette/tobacco advertising.

Though it does not explicitly mention surrogate advertising, sellers could be prosecuted depending on how a case is presented. That said, if mineral water advertised by an alcohol company meets requisite standards, it’s a murky area.

Direct advertising of alcoholic beverages is banned in India but private channels have often permitted surrogate advertising.


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