India Gets Tough With 'Surrogate' Advertising

20 March 2008

MUMBAI: Indian health minister Anbumani Ramadoss (pictured) has launched his threatened crackdown on so-called 'surrogate advertising' of alcohol and tobacco products.

Namely the indirect promotion of such brands via related products such as sodas, tonic waters, and same-branded CDs, T-shirts and sportswear.

The ban, which affects only broadcast media, came into effect Monday with an edict from the Information & Broadcasting Ministry which amends a section of the Television Network Rules.

Ramadoss's letter identifies certain surrogate ads, specifically naming liquor brands such as Bagpiper, McDowells, Johnny Walker, Haywards, Royal Challenge and Kingfisher beers.

Broadcasters are predictably up in arms and the Indian Broadcasting Foundation has demanded a meeting with Information & Broadcasting minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi to discuss the issue.

They are unlikely to receive a sympathetic hearing, the latter having publicly described surrogate advertising as a "menace".

Argues IBF finance director Naresh Chahal: "It is not just surrogate brands that are under the spotlight. Many brands have genuine extensions, like Bagpiper Soda, which has a huge turnover and is a real product. It's no gimmick.

"How does one impose a blanket ban on these products, especially since they have been cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification?"

Individual broadcasters too are vociferously airing their grievances. Sony declares itself "confused over the diktat and cannot decipher a genuine from a surrogate ad," while Zee TV complains that the decree "could result in a hit on revenues, unless the government clarifies its stand."

Data sourced from The Times of India; additional content by WARC staff