Surrogate advertising

Surrogate advertising is a form of advertising which is used to promote regulated products, like cigarettes and alcohol, in the disguise of another product. This type of advertising uses a product of a fairly close category, as: club soda, mineral water in case of alcohol, or products of a completely different category (for example, music CD's or playing cards) to hammer the brand name into the heads of consumers. The banned product (alcohol or cigarettes) may not be projected directly to consumers but rather masked under another product under the same brand name, so that whenever there is mention of that brand, people start associating it with its main product (the alcohol or cigarette). In India there is a large number of companies doing surrogate advertising, from Bacardi Blast music CD's, Bagpiper Club Soda to Officers Choice playing cards.[1][2]


The origin of surrogate advertising can be traced to Britain, where housewives started protesting against liquor advertisements which provoked their husbands.[3] The protest rose to a level where liquor advertising had to be banned and brand owners seeing no way out decided to promote fruit juices and soda under the brand name; the concept later emerged as surrogate advertisements.[3]

Surrogate advertising in IndiaEdit

India has held a strong stance on the ban of advertising tobacco and liquor products since 1995. The ban was enforced after extensive research from the Indian Ministry of Health found that cigarettes and liquor have adverse effects on a person's health. In addition to this, the Indian government holds the notion that these products are especially harmful to a person's mental health, making them lazy and unmotivated. The combination of these factors lead to an eventual ban on advertising of these products throughout its media channels.[4]

However, the negative outlook on advertising these products can be traced back to 1975, when the Indian government introduced the Cigarette advertising act, forcing tobacco companies to display health warnings on the packaging and advertisements for cigarettes. The Indian government and health ministry continued to push for stronger restriction of the advertising of tobacco and liquor until its eventual complete ban in 1995. However, the increase in population saw the sales of tobacco and liquor increase at an exponential rate. Therefore, companies were forced to seek alternative means of advertising, which lead the eventual creation of surrogate advertising in India.[4]

Some of the first evidence of surrogate advertising was seen by the Indian tobacco Company ‘Azad Bidi’, who sponsored an international cricket match in India.[4] In India, extensive surveys resulted in similar findings which showed that liquor ads had direct influence on consumers' purchasing behavior. Soon afterwards, the Cable TV Regulation Act banned liquor and cigarette advertisements; thus, India gradually adopted surrogate advertisements.[3]

Such companies usually either go for brand extension and promote the extended products, or promote certain products which might not be available in the market. The excessive pressure of the ban forced companies to focus more on brand building and thus liquor companies started sponsoring and hosting glamorous events, yet many others started distributing t-shirts, caps, key chains, drinking glasses with the brand name displayed on these products.[5][2]

Surrogate advertising mandates a requirement for the product being marketed to have a revenue model associated with it.[5]

Effectiveness of surrogate advertisementsEdit

According to the inferences drawn from several surveys and interviews, 42 out of 50 people can understand the actual liquor or tobacco product being advertised.[6]

Surrogate advertisements do impact a consumer's buying decision as well. They also inform consumers about the leading liquor brands and thus promote sales.[5]

Current scenarioEdit

With government now enforcing ban on surrogate advertisements, companies are turning to event sponsorship, event organising, corporate films and more and more innovative integrated marketing communications strategies, though surrogate advertising is still a common practice.[7]

Brand extensions, which is the expansion of a company towards products it did not sell previously, are allowed and somewhat common. The main difference between this practice and surrogate advertising is that surrogate advertising does not want to sell the supposed new product and it actually wants to promote a product whose advertising is prohibited.[8]


  1. ^ Lamb, Charles W.; Hair, Joe F.; McDaniel, Carl. Essentials of Marketing. Cengage Learning. p. 76. ISBN 0538478349.
  2. ^ a b "Marketers in India Evade Alcohol Ad Ban by Promoting Surrogate Products".
  3. ^ a b c "The Hindu Business Line : Surrogate advertising — Needed, a spirited attack".
  4. ^ a b c Singh, Chandrashekhar (2015). "EVALUATION OF SURROGATE ADVERTISING AND ITS LEGAL MEASURES WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO INDIA". Management Insight. 11 (103–107).
  5. ^ a b c "Surrogate Advertising In India: Permissible Or Not | Naik Naik & Company".
  6. ^ "Has Delhi CM Resorted to Surrogate Ads on TV for Odd-Even Scheme?".
  7. ^ "The art of surrogate advertising | Best Media Info, News and Analysis on Indian Advertising, Marketing and Media Industry".
  8. ^ Alves, Danilo Scramin (2019). "A LEGAL ANALYSIS OF SURROGATE ADVERTISING AND ITS ACCOUNTABILITY IN BRAZIL IN THE CONSUMER SOCIETY PARADIGM". Revista Jurídica. 02 (55): 106–132. doi:10.21902/revistajur.2316-753X.v2i55.3386.

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