Surrogate ads of tobacco & liquor not only illegal but also unethical, say experts

The ad industry, however, opines that the authorities should also consider curbing the root cause of the issue, i.e., the manufacture & sales of such products

e4m by Mansi Sharma & Kanchan Srivastava
Published: Oct 13, 2021 8:29 AM  | 5 min read

Surrogate is defined as a 'substitute’ in Merriam-Webster dictionary. Surrogate advertisements are just that. 

The surrogate or substitute ads are used to promote and advertise products of brands when the original product cannot be advertised on mass media due to prohibitions by the law or the guidelines of ad regulator - Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). 

In surrogate advertisements, banned products are not projected directly to consumers but rather masked under another product under the same brand name. 

Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan’s surrogate ad for Pan Masala brand, which he pulled out on his 79th birthday that is October 11, has led to a debate once again over the use of surrogate ads by companies and celebs to promote unhealthy products by violating the law. 

Apart from being illegal, such surrogate ads are unethical too, feel industry stalwarts like Sam Balsara, Chairman of Madison World. 

Balsara tells e4m, “Surrogate advertising is not ethically correct. It is advertising for a brand whose advertising is legally not allowed and another brand is created to get around the law and that brand is advertised   to keep the brand in the public mind.”

“Some categories like Liquor have been forced to do it and it is debatable whether such advertising is surrogate advertising or advertising for extension brands”, he says. 

Hailing Amitabh Bachchan for his decision to dissociate from the ad, Mr Balsara noted, “I must compliment Amitabh Bachchan on taking the moral high ground. A principle is a principle only if it hurts!”

Netizens have also appreciated Mr Bachchan's decision to step down as the face of a pan masala brand. 

A Twitter user — @peepoye_ — wrote, "Thank u, @SrBachchan Sir! You've shown that you are indeed the 'Shenshah' of Indian Cinema! Hope the way you have terminated your contract with the Pan Masala Brand, other actors will also follow in your footsteps!"

Social media impact... Amitabh Bachchan terminates contract with pan masala brand.” 

“Advertisers and Govt Equally To Be Blamed”

Launching new products with a common brand name is known as brand extensions and is not per se illegal or objectionable in nature. The problem arises when a brand extension is carried out in response to a ban on advertisement of one product category, ad experts say. 

Industry experts are also questioning the role of the advertisers and companies who indulge in such unscrupulous activities for financial gains. The pan-masala industry in India is worth Rs 45,500 crores despite an official ban on promotion and advertising. 

The government and ASCI’s silence over the matter is also being debated. 

Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Tidal7 Brand and Digital, KS Chakravarthy, popularly known as Chax, says, “ASCI does what it can, but there are enough agencies and advertisers who are happy to operate beyond the pale. The real question is, if the authorities are serious about 'protecting the public', why do they allow surrogate advertising?”

He asks, “Why act all holier than thou about the stars? Yes, some will not do it, there are others who say, if it is legal, why shouldn't I? It is a failure at many levels, and such pointless debates miss the fundamental issue - or rather, choose to ignore it.”

Samsika Marketing Consultant MD Jagdeep Kapoor offers a broader view as he asks why are the authorities allowing the manufacturing and sales of these ‘sin products’ if they don’t want the brands to promote them. “I don't think surrogate advertising is right but people need to see and curb the root cause of it. You are allowing the manufacturing and sales of these products but then you are saying they can't be promoted. How does that make sense? Also, psychologically, people tend to move more towards things that are forbidden. So, if you ban them, the interest will go up. And if you just ban marketing, people will still see them in stores. So, the question is: are we ready to work on the root cause and completely stop the manufacturing and sales of such products? Obviously, it doesn't justify exploiting the loopholes in the system, but we need to look at it more objectively."

Three layers of law, none works 

Industry experts point out that India has a triple layer prohibition: 

 1) Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act,1995) 

 2) Cigarettes And Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition Of Advertisement And Regulation Of Trade And Commerce, Production, Supply And Distribution) Act, 2003.

 3) ASCI code. 

All prohibit "Tobacco and liquor products'' ads by both direct and indirect means. None of the three works though. 

Since advertising has been banned in Mass Media, tobacco and liquor companies have resorted to surrogate advertising tactics to keep their brands alive in the minds of consumers. 

“The tobacco and liquor lobbies are too strong in India. They are the ones which fund political parties. Hence, they get away despite flouting the norms openly. Now, they are the sponsors of the Indian Premier League (IPL) as well,” a TV actor-turned-politician said, requesting anonymity. 

What will happen now?

Some industry experts avoided commenting on the issue on the record. Off record, they said that the current debate will lead to nowhere. 

“Surrogate ads for tobacco and liquor will continue as stakes are high. Nonetheless, debates on this issue always revolve around actors and end when they budge to the public or political pressures,” an ad filmmaker opined.  

Since the information and broadcasting ministry has not spoken on the matter, the matter is expected to subside in a few days. 

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Aditya Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund honours partners who support us in investment

The campaign #AapkeSapnoKeSarthi aims to recognize the important role that MFPs play in the financial ecosystem

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 29, 2023 1:44 PM   |   2 min read


Aditya Birla Sun Life AMC Limited has launched a campaign #AapkeSapnoKeSarthi to recognise the dedication and commitment of our partners towards making investing an effortless experience for investors.

#AapkeSapnoKeSarthi aims to recognize the important role that MFPs play in the financial ecosystem and is committed to supporting them in their efforts to educate and guide investors. As part of this commitment, ABSL-MF has launched several initiatives aimed at empowering MFPs and enhancing their capabilities. These initiatives include training programs, investor education campaigns, and digital tools to help MFPs better serve their clients.

Commenting on the campaign, A. Balasubramanian, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Aditya Birla Sun Life AMC Ltd., said, “Our mutual fund partners have been the driving force behind our company's success for many years. Their unwavering commitment to our investors and their expertise in navigating challenging market conditions have been crucial in creating long-term value for our customers. We are incredibly grateful for their exceptional services, and we recognise the significant role they play in shaping the growth and development of the mutual fund industry. With our latest campaign, #AapkeSapnoKeSarthi, we hope to showcase the dedication and commitment of our partners and highlight their role as trusted companions in our investors' financial journeys.”

The three-minute film shows how these partners, who often go unnoticed, always put their investors' interests ahead of their own, even if it means sacrificing their personal time and responsibilities. The emotional support and guidance provided by these partners are highlighted in the film, and it is heart-warming to see how they have become an integral part of the investor's family. The campaign is directed by Prateek Pendharkar under the creative guidance of Lakshyya Sharma who is a Creative Head with Zero Followers.

Commenting on the ad campaign, Vaibhav Somani, CBO and COO Zero Followers, said, “Creating a campaign that celebrates the unwavering commitment of mutual fund partners towards making investing an effortless experience for investors was a challenging yet fulfilling experience for our team.”


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ICICI Lombard's 'unbelievable' new offering makes aliens and dragons more believable

Phase 2 of the company's #UnbelievableButTrue campaign highlights its Health AdvantEdge Plus & Befit health insurance cover offers

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 29, 2023 1:12 PM   |   3 min read


ICICI Lombard announced the launch of phase two of its multimedia campaign for the Health AdvantEdge Plus & BeFit Cover. In its improved avatar, the cover will now include maternity benefits, cashless medicines, and lab tests, along with its already existing features of cashless OPD, virtual consultations, physiotherapy, and wellness benefits. To communicate the same, #UnbelievableButTrue campaign, launched last year, its Phase-2 unfurl on Health AdvantEdge Plus & Befit health  insurance cover offers access to general, specialist, and super-specialist doctors online or at the clinic for everyday health needs that do not require hospitalization.

The second phase of the #UnbelievableButTrue campaign will see the release of 2 films across television, digital and social media platforms, to highlight the numerous benefits of the policy, which offers comprehensive health coverage customized to meet the changing needs of modern-day individuals and families. It is a 360-degree integrated communication campaign involving TV, Digital, and social media across all mainstream News Channels (Hindi, English), Digital platforms (Google, Meta, and Affiliate) and social media.

Speaking at the launch, Sheena Kapoor, Head of Marketing, Corporate Communication and CSR at ICICI Lombard, said, "As India's leading private general insurer, health and wellbeing is a key focus area. We were the first in the country to launch cashless OPD product and now are offering a holistic product, 'Health AdvantEdge Plus & BeFit cover' that covers a gamut of features including maternity, diagnostic or lab tests, pharmacy etc making this a truly unique and innovative offering. Our campaign thus emphasises the 'UnbelieveableButTrue' proposition through films which are quirky and witty coupled with an endearing banter about how a science professor matter of factly alludes to aliens and dragons. We are deploying an integrated communication approach across TV, digital and on ground with our channel partners and have garnered a lot of positive feedback as we do a rerun of this campaign, having already won us several awards and over 40.27 mn views and a lot of customer love.”

Speaking about the campaign conceptualised by Ogilvy India, Talha Bin Mohsin & Mahesh Parab Executive Creative Directors said, “For an insurance provider to go down to the very basics of healthcare and provide such a comprehensive healthcare cover is unheard of. When we add the cashless aspect to that, it makes the offering even more commendable. Undoubtedly, the campaign would need to convey the magnanimity of an offering like Befit Cover. We knew the reactions it would draw from the Indian masses were going to be massive. And with that, we didn’t have to look very far to get inspiration for our #UnbelievableButTrue campaign.”

The post-pandemic society has undergone significant transformation and has changed its perceptions of general medical infrastructure and healthcare processes, with preventive healthcare taking centre-stage as consumers are far more aware of and take conscious decisions towards improving their health and well-being. Owing to the new consciousness, pathological tests have emerged as a new touch point for consumers to take care of their physical well-being. Additionally, bearing in mind the medical journeys expectant mothers take, the Health AdvantEdge Plus & Befit Cover  has expanded its ambit to include maternity benefits and laboratory tests. Outpatient healthcare is being perceived and delivered differently in today’s world. To keep up with this new normal, the Health AdvantEdge Plus & Befit Cover has been tailored to meet clients' ever-changing needs and is completely cashless.

Through its insurance products, ICICI Lombard, among other companies, provides end-to-end wellness solutions to its valued customers. As good health and immunity become more important, this one-of-a-kind solution will become more useful and relevant than ever.

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Badshah Masala sings a new tune with revamped ‘Swaad Sugandh Ka Raja' jingle

Havas Worldwide India, which handles the brand's creative mandate, has played a crucial role in remixing the old jingle

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 29, 2023 12:34 PM   |   3 min read

Badshah Masala

Badshah Masala is infusing fresh life into one of India’s most iconic jingles ‘Swaad Sugandh Ka Raja, Badshah Masala’. The brand today launched a new, progressive version of the iconic jingle that will focus on different consumption occasions through the prism of family and the time we spend with our loved ones while retaining the essence of the original tune. 

With Dabur acquiring the legacy brand last year, Badshah Masala has overhauled its product range and has added new products like quality spices and spice mixes to its portfolio along with a reinvigorated promise of Trust.  

Badshah Masala Chief Executive Officer Rehan Hasan said, “Badshah Masala is a household name in the spices and seasonings category in India. The jingle has been associated with Badshah Masala for decades and has become synonymous with the brand. The new version reflects the brand's commitment to quality and its roots in India's rich culinary heritage. We believe that it will strike a chord with the consumers and remind them of the authentic Indian flavours that Badshah Masala provides. The new jingle will be used in all Badshah Masala's advertising campaigns across various media platforms, including television, radio, and social media.” 

The creative mandate is being handled by Havas Worldwide India. The agency that has played a critical role in refreshing the old jingle will oversee the brand’s marketing communication going ahead. 

Speaking on the occasion, Havas Worldwide India Chief Creative Officer Anupama Ramaswamy said: “It was quite interesting to rehash the iconic jingle that has been etched in our minds for 40 years, while retaining its crux and feel. Therefore, while ideating we kept the angle of modern families, the new and healthy equation between them as well as changing roles, to make the ad more contemporary, aspirational, and relatable. There is no doubt that the new version of Badshah Masala ad is modern but at the same time there are situations which brings out beautifully the legacy of the brand.” 

“We are thrilled to bring on-board Badshah Masala in Dabur’s Foods portfolio and believe the addition will not only strategically expand our business but will also build on its existing legacy for all future intents and purposes. We aim to live up to consumer’s expectations of the premium and quality spices and spice mixes in the years to come. With Dabur’s acquisition of the legacy brand last year, Badshah Masala has overhauled its product range and has added new products like quality spices and spice mixes to its portfolio,” Mr. Hasan added.

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Why SRK prefers Thums Up ‘in a glass'

The cola brand has roped in Shahrukh Khan and Vijay Deverakonda for the new campaign ‘Toofan Glass Mein Nahin, Glass Se Peete Hain’

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 29, 2023 11:28 AM   |   3 min read

Thums up

Thums Up has unveiled a new power-packed campaign ‘Toofan Glass Mein Nahin, Glass Se Peete Hain’.

This campaign exhibits the experience of consuming Thums Up from the Returnable Glass Bottle (RGB). The new campaign features Shahrukh Khan and Vijay Deverakonda bringing out the TOOFANI adventure.

The campaign encourages consumers to have the ultimate TOOFAN experience by consuming chilled Thums Up from the returnable glass bottle, which further enhances its  strong taste with the rising fizz.

Commenting on the new campaign, Tish Condeno, Senior Category Director, Sparkling Flavors, Coca-Cola India & Southwest Asia said, “Thums Up is India’s very own homegrown brand and we are thrilled to bring forth the experience of relishing our chilled beverage with power-packed TOOFAN from returnable glass bottles. The campaign featuring our favourite Shahrukh Khan and southern superstar Vijay Deverakonda resonates with the brand’s ideology of experiencing THUNDER from a chilled returnable glass bottle.”

The launch of the new campaign reinstates the brand’s focus on providing consumers with an unparalleled consumption experience directly through glass bottles. Returnable glass bottles (RGB’s) are part of The Coca-Cola Company’s commitment to accelerate circular solutions for packaging. The Company’s World Without Waste strategy focuses on the entire packaging lifecycle—from how bottles and cans are designed and produced to how they’re collected, recycled and repurposed.

Ritu Sharda, Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy India (North), said “Thums Up is the strongest drink in the market, and the whole act of SRK and Vijay Deverakonda grabbing a Thums Up glass bottle from the chiller, and just having it straight up felt raw and strong. Also, that pop sound of the crown flying off, watching the fizz rise up like a storm, the feel of the cold rim against your lips, and the thundering taste, of course, all adds to the Thums Up experience in a glass bottle, and we wanted you to experience that. Those of us who have had a chance to drink from the glass bottle, perhaps know that feeling, but for a whole new generation of Thums Up lovers, who still don't know, here's the truth -

"Thums Up peene ka Mazza glass mein nahin, glass se aata hai "

The new campaign has been brought to life through integrated 360-degree efforts across TV, social, digital, and OOH. The TVC revolves around the enriching experience of drinking the toofani beverage - Thums up, directly from the chilled glass bottle. This campaign is building on the brand’s recent campaigns on strong taste and how Thums Up pairs well with the strong flavours of biryani. 

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Cannes Lions to ensure adequate representation of Black talent

Black Out 2023, a new program by Cannes Lions in association with Black British Network, will secure attendance for up to 50 people from the Black community at this year’s festival

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 29, 2023 8:50 AM   |   3 min read

Cannes Lions

After introducing Gaming and Metaverse, the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity organizers have now announced that they will create much-needed access for Black talent to the Festival and associated industries from this year onwards. Cannes Lions Festival is slated to be held in Cannes (France) from June 19 to 23. 

In association with Black British Network, Cannes Lions have launched Black Out 2023, which is a callout to organizations connected to the marketing and creative industries to ensure the presence of Black talent at the largest industry gathering in the world. 

The programme will secure attendance for up to 50 people from the Black community at this year’s festival through a campaign focused on driving investment from leading organisations, the organizers said in a press statement.  

Simon Cook, CEO of LIONS, said, "Cannes Lions is committed to driving equity within our industry, and we are pleased to be partnering with Cephas to launch Black Out as part of our commitment to actively combatting underrepresentation. Our industry recognises the importance of supporting Black talent and removing barriers to progression, and Black Out enables organisations to show their support.”

Cannes Lions will provide the Festival passes and the Black British Network will lead an investment campaign to cover flights, accommodation and associated costs. Any additional funds raised will be used to support the ongoing work of the Black British Network to achieve equity and inclusion across the industry.

The campaign is focused on improving accessibility authentically, from the ground up, and is open to Black talent at any stage of their career, from those who have been in the industry for many years, to those seeking a point of entry to the industry. Applications are now open on the Black British Network website and the Crowdfunder is now live.

Black Out 2023 is an evolution of an independent campaign launched by Cephas Williams, founder of the Black British Network in 2022 to see a greater level of Black representation at the Festival. 

In the lead-up to the Festival, Williams committed £20,000 of his own money to bring Black talent with him, and invited the industry to take action on their commitment to inclusion and invest alongside him. Williams’ own initial investment was more than tripled by the ensuing campaign and secured fully-funded access to Cannes Lions for six people.

Williams’ enduring ability to spot opportunities that uplift and develop Black individuals has inspired Cannes Lions to formally collaborate with the Black British Network on a joint talent programme. Whilst industry leaders are collectively vocal about the need for greater diversity, Black talent continues to be underrepresented and undervalued at all levels.

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Cannes Lions: Sukesh Nayak, PG Aditiya & Gautam Reghunath among speakers

The three Indians are among the first list speakers at the prestigious award ceremony

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 29, 2023 9:00 AM   |   2 min read

cannes lions

Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity’s line-up this year will draw inspiration from a broader and more diverse spectrum of creative disciplines, creators, visionaries and thinkers. 

The organizers have released the first list of 77 speakers. Among them are Sukesh Nayak, Chief Creative Officer of Ogilvy; PG Aditiya, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer and Gautam Reghunath Co-founder and CEO of Talented ad agency. Aditiya and Reghunath had previously worked with dentsu and set up Talented only last year. 

Incidentally, Olgilvy and Talented both have recently created some wonderful campaigns with women in focus. 

Bengaluru-based Talented’s latest ad campaign “The Superwoman” for Tanishq reiterates that women are humans and being called a superwoman is a compliment only when it’s not an expectation. 

On the other hand, Oglivy’s campaign for JioCinema around India’s first Women's Premier League (WPL) celebrates the girls' entry in India’s biggest sought-after tournament and brand property. 

Actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Danai Gurira and top executives from Mondelez, Ali Baba, Google, Pfizer, P&G, Diageo, MIT and LinkedIn will also hit the stage. 

Besides, heads of several creative and media agencies such as DDB Mudra Worldwide, Mindshare, Mindscape, Digitas, Satchi & Satchi will also share their thoughts on a range of topics.

The prestigious award ceremony will be held in Cannes (France) from June 19 to 23. 

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New Pulse ad ends on a zingy note

The campaign has been conceptualised by Wunderman Thompson

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 28, 2023 3:00 PM   |   3 min read


Dharampal Satyapal Foods Ltd, a part of DS Group has launched a new TVC for Pass Pass Pulse, the nation’s favourite hard-boiled candy, titled, ‘Courtroom’. Reiterating the core communication of the brand, ‘Pran Jaaye Par Pulse Na Jaaye’ in a light-hearted courtroom drama setting, the TVC features Mr. Saurabh Shukla and Mr. Abhishek Banerjee in the role of a judge and a lawyer respectively, trying to unfold a case with Pulse as the key evidence.  Mr. Shukla and Mr. Banerjee are famous for their acting prowess, screen presence and well-timed humour. This new TVC is a humorous take on a courtroom situation that highlights how the craving to have a Pulse can make people go to any lengths. The TVC has been conceptualized by Wunderman Thompson, Delhi and directed by Mr. Rajesh Krishnan. 

We see the Lawyer (Abhishek Banerjee) telling the Judge (Saurabh Shukla) about the evidence, a Pulse Candy left at a crime scene by the accused. Showing it to everyone present in the court, he asks who it belongs to. The craving for the candy is such that everyone raises their hands, including the Judge. But the clever lawyer outsmarted everyone by popping it in his mouth before anyone could grab it. 

Commenting on the occasion, Mr. Arvind Kumar, General Manager, Marketing, Dharampal Satyapal Foods Limited, said, “‘Irresistibility’ is the core product philosophy of pulse. The behavioural insight of the consumers indicated that Pulse consumers don’t want to share their Pulse candy with anyone. We have built on this premise over the years through our communication Campaigns revolving around the theme, ‘Pran Jaaye Par Pulse Na Jaaye’. This latest TVC also highlights the irresistibility of Pulse in a humorous courtroom drama where everyone present, including the Judge is willing to be labelled as an accused, just to get their hands on Pulse candy.” 

Commenting on the campaign, Sundeep Sehgal, Vice President & ECD, Wunderman Thompson, said, “Over the years ‘Pran Jaaye Par Pulse Na Jaaye’ commercials have gained a separate fan base due to their whacky plots and masaledaar twists. And people want more. So, this time we took Tangy Twist a notch higher to increase brand love. We developed crazier stories. We roped in acting powerhouses – Saurabh Shukla and Abhishek Banerjee to take you on a never been before masaledaar journey that you’ll relish for a long time.” 

The campaign is live on leading channels like YouTube, Social Media (Facebook & Instagram), and OTTs (Hotstar, Zee5 etc.) 

DS Group is known for its expertise in innovative Indian flavours and formats. Pass Pass Pulse, the hard-boiled candy from DS Group stormed this market with its launch in 2015 and since then, is the leading candy brand in India. The tangy twist to the conventional taste makes Pulse an absolute standout! Pulse candy, continuously endeavours to engage with consumers through creative and innovative ways to develop a stronger connection. Launched in 2015, Pulse Candy comes in 5 mouth-watering flavours, i.e. Kachcha Aam, Guava, Litchi, Orange and Pineapple. The brand continues to enjoy popularity with the burst of tanginess and a feeling of fun and peculiarity that each flavour commands.

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