Indian laws do not allow alcohol and tobacco companies to advertise, but a few of these advertisers have extended their brands to other categories purely in an attempt to advertise. Surrogate advertising happens when the brand extension is seen as a guise for a product that is almost non-existent in commercial terms. There have been regular noises made against surrogate advertising and the government could soon be decisively clamping down on all surrogate ads on TV. This could spell a loss of Rs250 crore in TV ad spends, say perturbed broadcasters. Leading broadcasters want to know the definition of surrogate advertising. “How do you implement such bans or disprove legitimate brand extension. Does this mean Kingfisher Airlines doesn’t exist and can’t advertise? Or that there are no Wills Lifestyle stores? And will Sony not be allowed to air Indian Premier League matches featuring Royal Challengers (named after Royal Challenge, a liquor brand)? Why is the clamp not extended to other media, such as sponsored ground events, outdoors, point-of-purchase advertising etc., which will reap our losses?” asks?a?broadcaster.
In the event of any ban, expect these brands to creatively find place in all sorts of branded content, TV advertorials and in-film advertising. I can see it now: a bartenders contest on TV.
How do you monitor infinite TV footage by the inch? Naresh Chahal, director, finance, Indian Broadcasting Foundation, narrates how in 2000 the government formed a committee headed by the then additional secretary of the I&B ministry and which included prominent broadcasters to look into the issue. The committee recommended that products with real production and distribution channels cannot be called surrogate, he says.
In the 2006 amendment to the Cable Act, one addendum was that these ads should be approved by the Central Board of Film Certification. Since then, these spots have been submitted to broadcasting stations with CBFC certificates, says Chahal, who wonders why broadcasters were not consulted before issuing such a notification. Some say such ads create brand recall among impressionable young people and should be beamed at specific time bands. Broadcasters denounce this as hypocrisy. “How come impressionable minds are not considered in movie and TV programming which shows violence, scandal and sex?” asks one broadcaster. Besides, if you can’t advertise the product, then why allow production of the product itself? Also, why not have ID cards at pubs which are full of teens? they ask. Of course, someone may choose to change the rules of how brands should be extended and registered, which may open another Pandora’s box.
Marion Arathoon is Mint’s advertising editor. Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org