Surrogate Advertising-Ethical or not?

 When I was younger, I always wondered what’s the logic behind the ‘Bagpiper Soda’ advertisement done by Akshay Kumar or Ajay Devgan with the punch line-‘khoob jamega rang.. jab milenge teen yaar.. aap, mei aur bagpiper’. But now I understand why such ads are made.

This is what is Surrogate Advertising;

“a form of advertising which is used to promote banned products, like cigarettes and alcohol, in the disguise of another product.”

Bacardi advertises via an event

Bacardi advertises via an event

In a similar manner, Royal Stag advertises its alcohol products indirectly by ‘Mega Music’. In the area of cigarettes, Wills Lifestyle Clothing is a brand evolved in itself through the advertisement of Wills cigarettes. At first, I was impressed by this innovative idea of Surrogate Advertising. But, after giving it a thought, I realized what it is really doing.

Cricket and Royal Stag

One would wonder why you would market products which are banned from advertising! Well, this is because, these are one of those products which generate high revenues, and on which the company runs. But, as per the Indian Law, direct or indirect marketing of banned products is illegal. But, do you really think, the message behind these surrogate ads doesn’t reach the public? The very motto behind the ban on such ads is to decrease its exposure and popularity. Smoking and drinking is not appreciated or, at times even accepted in the Indian culture. But, these ads are nowhere in line with the law nor the culture.

Used cricket to advertise the UB Group

Used cricket to advertise the UB Group

The tune, ‘oola la la la olle o….oola la la la ae o!!’ is well versed with everyone as that of Kingfisher, cricketers are popular for Royal Stag and celebrities like Shah Rukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan for Bacardi. We see them on TV, billboards, newspaper and the like. Everyone is familiar with the immediate and obvious relation these brands portray to the customer. The law allows advertisements of products which shares a brand name or logo with any tobacco or liquor product. But, at the same time also states that no reference direct or indirect could be made to the prohibited products in any form. Are these ads really respecting this law? While, at the same time is any action taken against the law breakers? We all know the answer to these questions.

Saif Ali Khan and Shah Rukh Khan for Royal Stag

Saif Ali Khan and Shah Rukh Khan for Royal Stag

We see India westernizing day by day. It certainly should. Aspects like technology, cleanliness and governance is well versed with the western countries, and it should be adapted by us, the Indians too. But, to what extent do we want to westernize? We should make sure that our culture is not lost in the quest of developing. Rules like those on ban of alcohol and cigarettes ads must be followed.

But, the flip side to this is, how will these companies run then? Alcohol or cigarettes is their main source of income. But do you really think all products made on this earth require advertisements to be sold? There are numerous brands which are doing well, without advertisements, like The Body Shop, which doesn’t have any TV advertisements in India, but is well known. Hence, the banned products will also do justice to its company without advertising.

It is a question to ponder over for the Company- make profits at the stake of the society’s well being or trust the power of your product and let it sell for itself.

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