Surrogate Advertising

In the Mahabharata, it was known that Bheeshma Pita had taken a vow that he would never attack or kill a woman during the Kurukshetra war. Arjuna capitalized on this aspect and during the war, kept Shigandi (a transgender) in front of him while shooting arrows at Bheeshma, Surrogate advertising has a close resemblance to this.

Surrogate advertising, as the name suggests, is employed to promote products like cigarettes and alcohol that are banned from being advertised directly. Through surrogate advertising, such products are promoted in the guise of products that fall into a somewhat similar category like soda and mineral water or a completely different category like music CDs and playing cards which are allowed to be advertised. A popular brand widely promoted through surrogate advertising is ‘Bagpiper whiskey’ under the guise of ‘Club Soda’.

It is important to know with regards to alcohol or some tobacco products, the ban is imposed on the advertising and not on the freedom to purchase the product over the counter. Products like alcohol and cigarettes are available across the counter, unlike pharmaceutical products which are banned not only from being advertised (except in the United States and New Zealand) but also for purchase without the prescription of a medical practitioner. However, brands like Vicks cough drops and Anacin, known as Over-The-Counter (OTC) products, can be advertised with their own identity directly and can be purchased freely across the counter.

Loopholes there are aplenty and being able to find them is ingenuity. But the question remains whether Surrogate Advertising does justice to the moral of the advertiser. It’s left to the consumer to think, judge and decide.

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