Explained: What is surrogate advertising and why has the government banned it?

A new set of guidelines by the government prohibit surrogate advertising and make it compulsory for celebrities to disclose any stake in the companies and brands they endorse. The rules intend to target misleading advertisements. The move comes in the wake of controversy over a perfume ad which was slammed for promoting sexual violence against women. While the Centre ordered a suspension of the commercial, new guidelines were issued on 10 June by the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA). Notified by the Consumer Affairs Ministry, “Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022” apply to ads across all media platforms including television, print and online. What do the new guidelines say? The guidelines have imposed a complete ban on surrogate advertising. They also aim to address the issue of misleading ads and endorsements aired during programming meant for children. The rules do not spell out what counts as a misleading ad. However, they define non-misleading ads as those with “truthful and honest representation”. The guidelines seek to disqualify ads that promote practices which can have an impact on children’s mental or physical health – commercials implying that children are “likely to be ridiculed or become less popular” if they do not purchase the products. What are surrogate ads? These are endorsements in which a good cannot be openly advertised. By often roping in celebrities to promote their brands, advertisers use subtle messaging without naming the real product. In India, alcohol and tobacco products cannot be advertised openly. Laws like the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 ban direct and indirect advertisements of tobacco products. Now Clause 6 of the CCPA notification prohibits both direct and indirect surrogate advertising. However, it does not define “brand extension”, which has been used to endorse a different product using a brand name for selling tobacco and liquor. Often alcohol companies are seen advertising mineral water and tobacco products are sold as breath fresheners. Liquor companies use music CDs, short films, and big music festivals for promotions during brand extensions. For example, tobacco brand Red & White promotes a bravery award and whisky brand Bagpiper advertises soda and CDs. However, influencer marketing and social media promotions continue, according to a report in moneycontrol . Bollywood biggies like Priyanka Chopra, Anushka Sharma, Amitabh Bachchan and Ranveer Singh have endorsed products like Rajnigandha Silver Pearls flavoured pan masala and Kamla pan masala which cannot be dubbed as “surrogate ads”, it says. In April, actor Akshay Kumar stepped down as brand ambassador for Vimal Elaichi after facing backlash for endorsing a pan masala brand. The ad posted on the brand’s YouTube channel showed stars Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgn chewing “elaichi” with the tagline “Bolo zubaan kesari” playing in the background. What about ads for children? According to Clause 8 of the new guidelines, an advertisement for junk foods, including chips, carbonated beverages and such other snacks and drinks shall not be advertised during a programme meant for children or on a channel meant exclusively for children. However, it does not specify what qualifies as junk food. The industry body Advertising Standards Council of India partnered with food regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in 2016 and drafted guidelines that advertisements that by nature needed health warnings on their packaging or were not meant to be targeted toward minors should not feature personalities from the field of sports, music and cinema, reports moneycontrol . How have advertisers reacted? Alcohol and tobacco brands are likely to be most affected by the new guideless. Large liquor markers like United Breweries and Bacardi are seeking clarity from the government on what qualifies as “surrogate advertising”. They want to know if there will also be a ban on endorsements which included phrases like “responsible drinking and warnings like “don’t drink and drive”. Brands put their names and logos on water bottles and music festivals for surrogate advertising. However, some of these products exist on their own as well. Advertisers are seeking clarity on whether promoting these objects and events will also be prohibited. “We are engaging with the government on what defines surrogate advertising, and what are valid brand extensions. If a sweeping clampdown on all extensions that have the same brand name as an alcohol brand was in place, Kingfisher Airlines could never have been launched,” Vinod Giri, director general, Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies told The Economic Times . With inputs from agencies Read all the Latest News , Trending News ,  Cricket News , Bollywood News , India News and Entertainment News here. Follow us on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram .

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