The Kingfisher Airlines may be serious business involving an outlay of around Rs 8,000 crore for the UB group. The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry may well feel that it is only a surrogate for the group's liquor business. All eyes in the liquor industry will therefore be trained on the Ministry and its verdict on the advertising blitzkrieg planned by Kingfisher Airlines.
There are also doubts on how the Government would treat the ad campaign and whether it would be construed as surrogate advertising that could promote the UB group's beer business.
"It would be interesting to see how the Government would react to the Kingfisher Airlines ads," said industry officials. The proposed airline venture is scheduled to break its media campaign (handled by Equus Advertising) in the first week of May as bookings go live.
The Government's recent circular asking television channels to withdraw all forms of "direct and indirect advertising" for cigarettes, tobacco products and liquor has once again opened the Pandora's box - on whether these products are genuine brand extensions or merely surrogate ads. Broadcasters, under the aegis of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) and liquor industry are now planning to ask the Ministry to review its decision.
"The IBF has a committee that has been screening all these brand extension ads. We feel that these advertisements should be allowed," said an official in a broadcasting company. The industry could stand to lose Rs 150-200 crore, if these ads are banned.
Meanwhile, the liquor industry has asked for a separate set of guidelines for such ads. Mr Alok Gupta, Executive Vice-President, UB Spirits Division, said, "We have no idea what prompted the latest move. The self-imposed regulation was working fine. We think it will be good if the Government through consultations evolve a set of guidelines on liquor advertising because there is a need to see the serious business intent behind brand extensions."
The UB Group will launch Kingfisher Airlines shortly and also has Kingfisher bottled water business, which sells five million cases annually. "Right now, we are in the stage of formulating our reaction and things should be clearer by the weekend," he added.