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Implicit positioning and surrogate advertising "Advertising is a non-moral force, like electricity, which not only illuminates but electrocutes. It’s worth to civilization depends upon how it is used." J. Walter Thompson Let’s start with an ad that is etched in our memory and we dance to its tunes: “Dance on the clubboat, a group of party people in the age of 25 -40 years have a glass which seems like water in it. After that music starts in advertisement “be watcha you wanna be” and young people do dance and then the ad closes with Bacardi brand showing bat as their logo and in the end -says cassettes and cd·s available on SONY.”

This is surrogate advertising. Surrogate advertising means duplicating product extensively, in order to promote, another product.

brand image of one

Origin of this trend Advertising is widely accepted to be the most potent tool in the hand of a marketer. Whether it is to launch a new product, entrench an existing one, educate on the new salient features or create a new market, most consumer products manufacturers orient a considerable amount of time, energy and money to reaching out to existing and potential consumers though various media. Direct advertising of tobacco/alcohol and other products was rampant before the enforcement of tobacco control legislation in India. Billboard advertising of international and domestic brands of cigarettes and chewable forms of tobacco was a common sight. But now all direct advertising of tobacco products in all media has been prohibited with the enforcement of National Legislation. Cable Television Network (Regulation) Amendment Bill,2000, which completely prohibits cigarette and alcohol advertisements, which directly and indirectly promote sale of these products (enacted from September 8, 2000).The ban has spawned a generation of surrogate marketing initiatives as corporations leant to sell without communicating to the consumer.

Trends before the enforcement Sponsorship of sports events and cultural events by tobacco and alcohol industry. •

‘Wills’ (brand of ITC, a subsidiary of British American Tobacco) used to sponsor Indian cricket team/matches.

Tennis tournaments were sponsored by ‘Gold Flake’ cigarette (brand of Godfrey Phillips India Ltd. -GPI, a subsidiary of Phillip Morris). Boat racing was sponsored by ‘Four Square’ cigarettes (brand of GPI).

Charms’, a cigarette brand sponsored the ‘Spirit of freedom concert’, a musical event.

‘Manikchand’, manufacturers of gutkha (chewing tobacco), patronized the Filmfare awards ceremony.

Trends after the enforcement In this context, one can imagine the predicament of a producer who is mandated to legally produce and stock and then has his hands tied by being denied the right to market the produce. This is a ditch that many liquor and cigarette companies have found themselves in after the enforcement. Most of the large players adapted quickly to introducing what are termed as complimentary products which fell outside the ambit of the Government’s regulation. After the ban imposed on the 12 advertisements identified as surrogates by the Government of India, and the show-cause notices issued to Star TV, Zee TV and Aaj Tak in 2002 under the provisions of the Cable Tele-vision Regulation Act of 2002, the whirlwind of surrogate ads hitting the telly calmed down to a large extent. Advertisers started diversifying and shifted their focus to other advertising avenues which often stretched the concept of brand ex-tension to previously unheard-of levels to perpetuate brand recall among the target audience. Let me quote some examples. Brand Seagrams (Alcohol) Mc Dowells Bagpiper Red and White BacardI Kingfishe Four Square White Wills lifestyle Goa Gutkha, Pan Parag Gutkha Johny Wlker

Surrogate Compact discs. Water and Soda Water and Soda, Casseetes and Compact discs. Bravery Awards Cassettes and Compact discs Water and Calendar’s Water Rafting and Gliding Apparels, Accessories Pan Masala Soda

502 Pataka Smirn off, Aristrocrat

502 Pataka chai Apple Juices

Advertising Paan masala/mouth fresheners bearing the same brand name as tobacco products is a common practice. Sponsorship of sports and cultural events is widely being undertaken by alcohol companies in India. “Royal stag” sponsors Indian cricket matches. “Shaw Wallace” sponsored the Indian open golfing event as the Royal Challenge Indian open and the Kenya cricket team. Kingfisher promotes their liquors, beers and whiskies, which constitutes 95% revenues of the UB group, by different strategies like they owned a cricket team ROYAL CHALLENGERS Bangalore and launching India’s costlier calendars which are limited in edition. One interesting trend which was observed in the mid 2000s was the “socially responsible advertising” taken up by many liquor companies. Several advertisements exhorting viewers to be responsible citizens and refrain from driving after drinking were seen by media analysts as a form of surrogacy.


The Drift between the industry and Government

Government feels that promoting these brands has influence on young minds, recruits new drinkers, increase sales among heavy drinkers. In 2005 Health minister Anbumani Ramadoss alleged that the tobacco industry was directly paying cinema stars to smoke in films. When millions of people give polio drops to their children inspired by Amitabh Bachchan's appeal, the impact of smoking scenes is not difficult to imagine. The industry people quote that advertising is only about protecting brand share, not total consumption, and industry self-regulation is the answer for any problems. Need of the Hour

However the surrogacy in advertising continues in the absence of a strong code by the ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of India). The need of the hour is to develop an unambiguous plan of action. Recently, the Information and broadcasting ministry assured that stricter measures of surveillance to identify such advertisements would be put in place. The tobacco and liquor manufacturing lobby has been trying to persuade the government to relax the restrictions on advertising. The following measure will go a long way in easing the deadlock: The ASCI should have an unambiguous guideline for differentiating acceptable and unacceptable forms of advertising for surrogates. Also it should be empowered to implement the guidelines and issue penalties for non-conformance. The government must look beyond having the cake (the advertising ban) and eating (tax revenues).

Welingkar's Prerna Nagpal writes for LIVE Magazine  
Welingkar's Prerna Nagpal writes for LIVE Magazine  

Welingkar's Prerna V nagpal from PGDM BD (09-11) batch has won the first prize, for the article, "Surrogate Marketing" for the Marketing se...