Tobacco and liquor companies have been selling a range of products from audio cassettes and CDs to darting kits, golf accessories and water under existing brand names. But the I&B Ministry is evidently trying to put a can on surrogate advertising once again.
In a circular, the information and broadcasting ministry has stated that brand extension advertising related to liquor and tobacco companies will not be allowed on TV in any form. The government circular, issued to the relevant section of the broadcast industry, clarifies that under the Cable TV (Network) Regulation Act 1995, liquor and tobacco advertising is not allowed on TV, which would also include from now on surrogate or brand extension advertising.
Set India CEO Kunal Dasgupta said, "Well, if it is the I&B Ministry's diktat, we would naturally pull out all the ads. But as of now, we have not received any specific instructions on how we ought to go about it, which are the ads that they are considering pulling out, what qualifies as 'surrogate' and so on. Especially, when we are talking about perfectly legitimate businesses here. But it's not a huge loss for most channels, as tobacco and liquor companies advertise very little on the electronic medium. We don't expect to feel much of a pinch."
Pratap Suthan, National Creative Director, Grey Worldwide, said, "Honestly, how would such a diktat be implemented? You can't stop advertising for Wills Lifestyle, just because it reminds you of Wills cigarettes! Again, there are two kinds of surrogate ads. First, there are those which are blatant in their approach, while others are genuinely trying to propel alternate businesses. You need to figure out which are the ones that need to be pulled out, and which are the ones that need to stay on."
As for the whole debate on surrogate advertising, Suthan asserted, "There is no legitimate study which proves that the percentage of smokers increases on account cigarette advertisements. The fact remains that no one can be sure if more people are lured into these habits, on account of ads aired on television. Similarly, if you take the trouble to weed out surrogate ads, there is no surety that consumers are going to abandon cigarettes or drinks."
Pranesh Mishra, President &COO, Lowe, said that things are kind of hanging in the air right now, with no directive of sorts from the government just media reports that claim that surrogate advertising would be put to an end.
When contacted, A K Shamsuddin fails to see how this move would affect Shaw Wallace when he said, "First of all surrogate is not permissible, only genuine brand extensions are permitted. But yes there are some brands who take the surrogate advertising route but we at Shaw Wallace like to comply with all the rules and regulations of the game. I would like to reiterate that Shaw Wallace focuses on genuine and logical brand extension rather than surrogate advertising and all our brand communication reflects this bias."
However, the dictate does not apply to the print medium, which means that they would perhaps be the biggest benefactors of this new policy. It's obvious that more and more liquor and tobacco companies would turn to this medium for greater support.