With the ban on advertising of alcohol, liquor brands have long resorted to surrogate advertising – promotion of a brand name, but through the peg of a different, non-alcoholic product.
For example, Bacardi, popular name in the business of alcohol, promotes its signature rum through sponsorships of various events, most notably the annual NH7Weekender music festival, and music CDs.
While, traditional surrogate advertising relied on television, radio and newspapers, now it uses the digital medium liberally, taking advantage of the absence of clear guidelines. Many Indian companies are taking to Social Media to promote their brands and circumvent the law via branded content.
According to Samar Singh, VP, UB Group, maker of Kingfisher beer amongst other brands, “We are living in a media dark era. Hence, we are organically weaving the product into the story to avoid obvious advertisement.” The group recently associated with TVF to produce “Pitchers”, a five-part series on four friends trying to launch a startup. With more than 10 million viewers, the show went viral in the startup community, and is currently rated 9.7 on IMDB. By producing the show, UB Group avoided surrogate advertising and revolutionized liquor advertising in India, said a top media planner.
AdWords, the biggest platform for Pay-per-click advertising has strict guidelines against advertising alcohol and while countries like the USA, UK and Australia allow alcohol advertising with certain restrictions, alcohol ads are completely disallowed to be targeted to India.
This is when social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter come in, where the promotion of content by an alcohol brand is still a gray area and many alcohol brands aim at building a community instead of straight off plugging the alcohol.
Kingfisher, maker of the famous beer, is an active player on Twitter and regularly connects with the young, urban and potentially beer-guzzling audience through its creative and funny tweets, contests and other engaging content.
— Royal Challengers (@RCBTweets) November 24, 2015
Australian beer brand Fosters’ has made an inroads into the Indian consumer through building content around the lifestyle of a beer guzzler, focussing on especially the travel angle with its #Damncold campaign.
While brands continue to advertise their product through innovative means and subversive advertising, here’s hoping that Indian law would come around to the idea of allowing alcohol ads in moderation.