Banning Surrogate Liquor Advertising

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Case Details:

Case Code : MKTG024
Case Length : 13 Pages
Period : 1999 - 2002
Pub Date : 2002
Teaching Note : Available
Organization : Archies Greetings
Industry : Advertising
Countries : India

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"It's difficult to digest that an industry which is allowed to sell its products, is banned from advertising the same products, despite the fact that the commercials carry health warning, advising the customers to use the product in temperance."

- Prof. Atul Tandan, Director, Mudra Institute of Communications, in July 2002.

Banning Liquor Advertisements - Again

In June 2002, the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry of India ordered leading television (TV) broadcasters to ban the telecast of two surrogate ads1 of liquor brands, McDowell's No. 1 and Gilbey's Green Label. The Ministry also put some other brands - Smirnoff Vodka, Hayward's 5000, Royal Challenge Whiskey and Kingfisher beer - on a 'watch list.' The surrogates used by these advertisements ranged from audiocassettes, CDs and perfumes to golf accessories and mineral water. By August 2002, the I&B Ministry had banned 12 advertisements. Leading satellite TV channels, including Zee, Sony, STAR and Aaj Tak were issued show-cause notices asking them to explain their reason for carrying surrogate liquor advertisements.

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The channels were asked to adhere strictly to the Cable Television Regulation Act 1995 (Cable TV Act, 1995).2 As a result, Zee and STAR stopped telecasting the advertisements; Aaj Tak and Sony soon followed suit. In addition, the I&B Ministry hired a private monitoring agency to keep a watch on all advertisements for violations of the Act.

These developments led to heated debates over the issue of surrogate advertising by liquor companies. Though the liquor companies involved protested strongly against the I&B Ministry's decision, they had no choice, but to comply with the regulations. Analysts remarked that the government's policy was hypocritical.

One said, "On the one hand they allow these 'socially bad' products to be manufactured and sold (in order to garner revenues) and then they deny the manufacturers the right to propagate knowledge of their products in order to drive sales. If something is bad and cannot be advertised, why allow it to be sold at all?"

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1] Advertising for other products like soda or mineral water using the brand names of liquor.

2] The Cable TV Act of 1995 outlines the various requirements that cable operators, cable networks and programmers must adhere to.


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