Surrogate Advertising: Navigating the Promotion of Restricted Products

Surrogate Advertising: Navigating the Promotion of Restricted Products

Surrogate Advertising employs indirect methods to promote products banned in certain markets, such as alcohol, cigarettes, or prescription drugs. This approach involves associating the banned products with others, using subtle means to convey the message without explicit mentions.

Examples of Surrogate Advertising in Different Industries

In India, industries like alcohol, cigarettes, and pharmaceuticals employ surrogate advertising due to direct advertising bans. Brands cleverly use tactics like humorous commercials, fashion events, or health discussions to indirectly promote restricted products, circumventing advertising restrictions. Here, we will discuss some examples of indirect advertising in various Industries.

1. Alcohol

In India, alcohol advertising is banned, prompting brands to use surrogate methods. For instance, Imperial Blue cleverly uses the tagline “Men will be men” in humorous commercials featuring various situations, avoiding direct depiction of the whisky. Kingfisher, a beer brand, adopts similar tactics using mineral water, soda, and calendars.

2. Cigarettes

With a ban on cigarette advertising in India, brands like Wills utilize surrogate techniques. Wills Lifestyle, a fashion division, indirectly promotes the cigarette brand through apparel stores and fashion events, circumventing direct advertising restrictions.

3. Pharmaceuticals

Due to restrictions on prescription drug advertising in many countries, pharmaceutical companies turn to surrogate methods. Pfizer’s campaign “Be Ready” subtly advertises its erectile dysfunction drug Viagra through health and fitness discussions, without explicitly mentioning the drug name.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Surrogate Advertising

Surrogate advertising has advantages, including sustaining brand awareness and fostering product differentiation, while also posing disadvantages such as potential misinformation, influence on consumer choices, and public health concerns.


  • Brand Awareness and Recall: Surrogate Advertising aids in maintaining or increasing brand awareness and recall despite legal restrictions.
  • Product Differentiation: Advertisers can differentiate their products creatively, fostering customer loyalty.
  • Leveraging Associations: Advertisers benefit from associating their products with popular or credible entities.


  • Misleading Information: Indirect advertising may mislead consumers by not providing clear or accurate information about the products.
  • Influence on Consumer Choices: It can influence consumer preferences by using persuasive messages that may not reflect the true value of the products.
  • Public Health Concerns: Indirect advertising may contribute to public health issues by promoting products that are harmful or addictive.


Surrogate Advertising is a strategy employed in industries facing advertising restrictions, promoting banned products indirectly. It presents both advantages and disadvantages, impacting brand awareness, consumer perception, and public health. Effective regulation and monitoring are crucial to addressing the complexities and controversies surrounding indirect advertising.

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