In the ever-evolving world of marketing, businesses are constantly seeking innovative methods to attract consumers and establish their presence in highly competitive markets. However, a controversial marketing practice known as surrogate advertising has emerged, giving rise to serious legal concerns and ethical dilemmas.
What Exactly is Surrogate Advertising?
Surrogate advertising is a strategic and deceptive approach in which a company promotes a product or brand indirectly due to legal or social restrictions that prevent direct advertising. This technique is often employed when there are bans on advertising certain products like alcohol, tobacco, or gambling. It typically involves mimicking the brand image of one product to promote another product from the same brand.
The history of surrogate advertising can be traced back to the UK when concerns arose over increased alcohol consumption leading to domestic violence. As a response, companies started employing surrogate marketing to promote their products in disguise as something else.
While surrogate advertising raises ethical questions due to its deceptive nature, it undoubtedly demands a high level of creativity and strategic thinking. One common strategy involves promoting a product or brand indirectly by advertising another related product or brand under the same name or logo. For example, a popular alcoholic beverage might use its brand name to advertise non-alcoholic beverages with the same name.
Celebrity endorsements have long been a popular surrogate advertising approach, leveraging a well-known celebrity’s popularity and credibility to indirectly influence consumer perceptions. Companies may also sponsor events such as sports tournaments, cultural festivals, or music concerts and use the event branding for indirect promotion.
This controversial marketing practice has gained traction in Nepal in recent years due to strict regulations. For instance, Yeti Brewery, the parent company of Arna Beer, operates Arna Music, and Ruslan Vodka sponsors Ruslan FM. Similarly, Tuborg Open Session, a YouTube series featuring live performances, indirectly promotes Tuborg beer. Even gambling companies have used similar tactics to indirectly promote their parent brands.
Despite existing laws in Nepal aimed at preventing misleading advertisements and promoting consumer protection, surrogate advertising practices persist. The lack of explicit regulations addressing surrogate advertising creates a significant challenge to consumer protection and ethical business practices. Companies exploit this regulatory gap to indirectly promote products that may be harmful or prohibited by law.
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