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Surrogate advertising

Updated on June 19, 2013

'Get what I mean' advertising

What we see on the right is a print screen and copy-paste of a remarkable Indian ad, which I am sure many of us wouldn't have missed on TV. Our dear friend, Ajay Devgan, drives miles on a dusty highway to reach ‘Tony da Dhaba‘ and runs to grab a soda (Seriously?). Later, mocked by a bunch of hooligans he enters a tug-of-war and fools them by grabbing the soda by letting the rope go. Ajay Devgan holds the soda in his hand with pride and says the magic words translated to English. “It would be an awesome evening if three friends sit together. You, me and Bagpiper (What follows is the longest pause in the history of 60 second advertisements) soda.” This is an example of surrogate advertisement, where the advertisement contains a product message or a brand inside it, which is essentially for another brand or product.

Why are they doing it?

The most common reasons for this kind of advertisements, is that the company is trying to work around a ban or a prohibition on mass media advertisements of the product. Generally, surrogate advertisements are used for products such as cigarettes, alcoholic beverages and certain kind of pharmaceutical products. Further delving into the purpose of such advertisements gives us certain concrete findings. A report released by the United States department of health and services eventually concludes that, there is no basis to believe that surrogate advertising of alcoholic beverages significantly affects consumption, let alone the abuse of it. So, if such surrogate advertisements don’t drive the non-drinkers into drinking, then what is the point of it? The answer is fairly simple. It is done to increase the market share. It serves as a reminder to the consumer to consume the product which has managed to break barriers and be visible, when, next time around, she/he is making the buying decision.

How are they doing it?

  • Over the years, many companies have tried various ways to establish their brand and advertise their products through the surrogate advertising route. McDowell’s has extended its brand to include bottled water and soda, Seagram’s and Bacardi have aced the cassettes and Cds way of doing it and Royal challenge extensively sponsors golf tournaments. Kingfisher campaign of 'be a true kingfisher fan', actively promotes bottled water.
  • Kingfisher has done all the above along with venturing into the airline industry with the same logo (which now, however, is a full-fledged brand extension) and calendars. The baggage tags, back of the boarding pass and also the exit doors of the kingfisher flights have extensive advertisements of the Whyte and Mackay music cds. Diageo has promoted club culture by opening exclusive Diageo clubs in many parts of the world and now in India.They have also sponsored fashion and music.
  • The tobacco companies, such as Wills (now ITC) have extended into the Wills lifestyle store, Marlboro have been associated with Formula1 for quite a long time. Rugby has seen the ‘Silk cut challenge cup'. Some companies have even manufactured sweet, candy cigarettes by the same name (Joe camel advertisements). However, the Indian information and broadcasting ministry under Mrs. Soni has been fiercely pushing for the ban on surrogate advertisements to make it even more rigid. This has prompted Godfrey Phillips India to change the name of Red and white Bravery awards to Godfrey Phillips national bravery awards.
  • There is a thin line between brand extension (Kingfisher airlines and Wills lifestyle brand) and surrogate advertising routes .How well inside the limits the companies can stay depends on their creativity and will be something to watch out for in the future.

Do you think surrogate advertising should be banned too?

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