If someone were to type ‘Surrogate advertising’, the definition on Wikipedia is this.
“Surrogate advertising is a form of advertising which is used to promote banned products, like cigarettes and alcohol, in the disguise of another product.”
This is, at best, a sly marketing tactic. Because you are essentially playing the devil’s advocate.
The word ‘surrogate’ implies a third party. Someone else is doing the work for you. Someone else is carrying the responsibility.
With products like cigarettes and alcohol that already has tons of regulations and restrictions, it really is a task to advertise them.
In her paper, Sharbani Raut writes, “The banned product (alcohol or cigarettes) is not projected directly to consumers but rather masked under another product under the same brand name so that whenever there is a mention of that brand, people start associating it with its main product.
Brands like Kingfisher, Wills actually bank upon such ads to draw attention to their other products. For instance, Kingfisher has promoted everything from bottled water, to soda to calendar under the umbrella of the brand name ‘Kingfisher’”.
Take Blender’s Pride. Their brand ambassador is Priyanka Chopra. They host fashion tours and shows, wherein they endorse the brand. Even their adverts doesn’t have an iota of drinking. The recent ads make people want to associate with the style of the brand than the brand itself. But by doing so, the brand is making huge strides. The tagline for the whiskey brand is “Taste life in style”. So they are reiterating the product via mediums where style is explicit.
Carlsberg is another example. They have their own club glasses and meeting rooms. Seagrams Imperial Blue music CDs, Tuborg beat and zero soda are other examples. Bacardi music CD advertises Bacardi rum.
Especially in the Indian context, there are strict guidelines on marketing these products. That is why till date you won’t see a child or an elderly person in any of the adverts. No images of partying or “getting sloshed”. No clip of drinking.
So the actual product is working through its tangent. Many a times, what surrogate or substitute the company chooses depends on what positioning they want to create in the minds of the consumers.
Direct advertising leads to possible brainwashing of the consumers. Using surrogate advertising, no explicit messaging is done.
It is like wearing a sheer net dress to a party. You are not completely bare. But you are. And it is quite inevitable that all eyes are on you.