What is Surrogate Advertising & Why is it Highly Regulated?


Have you ever seen an advertisement for a product that doesn’t seem to promote it?

That’s surrogate advertising, an increasingly popular form of advertising.

In this blog post, we’ll explore what surrogate ads are, how they work, and the legal and ethical considerations of using them.

What are surrogate ads?

A surrogate ad is an advertisement that promotes a product or brand indirectly. These ads often promote products that cannot be advertised directly due to legal or social restrictions.

Instead, companies use surrogate ads to build brand awareness and promote a lifestyle or image associated with the product.

Surrogate ads can take many forms, from print to TV and online banner ads. The key is that they don’t explicitly promote the product or service but use subtle imagery and messaging to build brand recognition.

In this type of advertising, a product from a close category, like club soda or mineral water in the case of alcohol, is used, or a product from a different category, like toothpaste.

Pro tip: If you are amazed with this form of advertising, wait till you read about over 30+ types of marketing I have written about.

The history of surrogate advertising

By using surrogate advertising, companies can effectively advertise for products that might otherwise be off-limits due to regulations, while still connecting the product to its original brand.

Now, this marketing technique has a fascinating history that dates back to Britain[1].

Housewives there protested against liquor advertisements that targeted their husbands, so companies started promoting fruit juices and soda using the same brand names. This innovative approach helped them circumvent the ban and increase sales.

Surrogate advertising has also been used in India to promote liquor brands, but the government eventually banned it.

Despite this, the technique can still influence consumers’ purchasing decisions by educating them about leading liquor brands. This ultimately leads to increased sales and brand recognition for the companies using this approach.

Why do companies use surrogate ads?

There are many reasons why companies use surrogate advertising. The most common reason is legal restrictions.

For example, in many countries, it’s illegal to advertise alcohol on TV or in print media. To get around this, alcohol companies use surrogate ads to build brand awareness and promote their products indirectly.

Another reason is social restrictions. For example, cigarette companies cannot advertise their products in many countries. Surrogate ads allow them to promote their brand without promoting the product itself.

The legal and ethical considerations of using surrogate ads

While surrogate advertising may be a way to get around the rules, it is not an effective marketing strategy. This is because it is difficult to create a connection between the surrogate product and the one you are actually trying to sell.

For example, if a liquor company is promoting a soft drink, there is no clear connection between the two products. As a result, people are not likely to purchase the liquor product.

One ethical concern with surrogate advertising is that it can mislead consumers. For example, a company might use a surrogate ad to promote a non-alcoholic drink, but the real intention is to sell their alcoholic beverage. This can undermine public health efforts and lead to unhealthy behaviors.

Another reason for surrogate advertising to be unethical is because it’s not transparent. Consumers have a right to know what they are being sold, and using surrogate ads can be seen as deceptive.

The government has banned surrogate advertising in India, and the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has also taken action to stop it[2].

As a result, companies need to be aware of the legal and ethical implications of using surrogate ads in their marketing strategies.

So, if you’re considering using surrogate ads, it’s important to consider the potential impact on your customers and society.

By being transparent and ethical in your advertising practices, you can build trust with your customers and create a positive reputation for your brand.

Examples of successful surrogate ad campaigns

Here are some examples of successful surrogate ad campaigns to check out:

  • Kingfisher, a popular beer company in India, sponsored the Indian Premier League cricket tournament. By doing this, they were able to promote their brand without directly advertising their beer. Smart, right?
  • Bacardi, a liquor company, came up with a campaign called “Champions Drink Responsibly.” They used this campaign to promote responsible drinking while also promoting their brand. It’s a win-win situation!
  • Bagpiper, a whiskey brand, found a clever way to promote their brand through the sale of music CDs. They called it the “Music CDs” campaign, and it was a huge success.
  • Last but not least, Royal Challenge, another whiskey brand, used a “Yaaron Ki Yaari” campaign to promote their brand. They did this through a song and music video featuring popular Indian celebrities. How cool is that?

These companies were able to come up with innovative ways to advertise their products without breaking any rules. It just goes to show that creativity can really pay off in the world of advertising.

The impact of surrogate ads on consumers

Surrogate ads can have a powerful impact on consumers. By using subtle messaging and imagery, companies can build brand recognition and promote a lifestyle or image associated with their product.

This can make consumers more likely to choose their product over competitors.

How to create an effective surrogate ad campaign?

If you’re considering using surrogate advertising for your product, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:

1. Understanding your target audience

Before you create a surrogate ad campaign, you need to understand your target audience.

What are their values and beliefs? What do they care about? This will help you create messaging and imagery that resonates with them.

2. Choosing the right medium for your campaign

Different mediums work better for different products and audiences. For example, a print ad might work better for an older audience, while a social media campaign might work better for a younger audience.

Consider your audience and what mediums they are most likely to engage with.

3. Creating a clear message that aligns with your brand values

Your surrogate ad campaign must have a clear message aligning with your brand values.

This will help build brand recognition and establish your product as a leader in the market.

4. Measuring the success of your campaign through analytics and data

Measuring the success of your surrogate ad campaign is crucial.

By tracking analytics and data, you can see how many people engaged with your ad, how many conversions it led to, and how much brand awareness it generated.

Pro tip: Consider these top marketing KPIs to measure your campaign success.

Future trends in surrogate advertising

As technology advances, we’re likely to see new and innovative ways of using surrogate advertising.

For example, virtual reality and augmented reality could be used to create immersive brand experiences.

Social media platforms will also continue to be an important part of surrogate advertising, as they allow for highly targeted campaigns.

Final Thoughts

The use of surrogate advertising can be a powerful tool for indirectly promoting products, according to this article. You can build brand awareness and make consumers more inclined to buy your product over your competitors with the right surrogate ad campaign, even though there are legal and ethical considerations to keep in mind.

Get in touch with us to find out how we can help you build an effective campaign if you are considering surrogate advertising for your B2B business.