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Govt’s New Guidelines Banning Surrogate Ads


Sellers of alcoholic beverages have asked the government to provide clarity on ‘surrogate advertisements’, which have been banned under the new guidelines to tackle misleading advertisements.


GS II- Government policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. What do the new advertising guidelines say?
  3. What is surrogate advertising?
  4. Why are advertisers seeking clarity?


  • The guidelines were issued  by the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA)
  • It includes a Rs 10 lakh penalty for first violation and a Rs 50 lakh penalty for subsequent violations.
  • Notified by the Consumer Affairs Ministry, the guidelines were issued days after outrage over a controversial perfume ad.

What do the new advertising guidelines say?

  • The Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022, have been released to “protect the consumers” and “to ensure that consumers are not being fooled with unsubstantiated claims, exaggerated promises, misinformation and false claims”.
  • These guidelines focus on misleading ads and ads shown during programming for children.
  • Surrogate ads, meanwhile, have been banned completely.
  • Misleading ads have not been defined, instead characteristics of non-misleading ads have been mentioned such as those which “contain truthful and honest representation” and do not exaggerate benefits.
  • On advertisements aimed at children, detailed criteria has been spelt out to disqualify certain ads, such as: ads that encourage practices detrimental to children’s physical health or mental well-being, imply children are “likely to be ridiculed or become less popular” if they do not purchase the goods, and ads that use qualifiers such as ‘just’ or ‘only’ to make the price of goods seem less expensive even when additional charges are present.

What is surrogate advertising?

  • Surrogate advertising is the strategy of advertising a product that cannot be advertised openly.
  • Advertisers instead create ads that help in building a brand, and often involve popular celebrities – all without naming the actual product that is being indirectly advertised.
  • In India, tobacco products and alcohol cannot be advertised openly under laws like the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, which bans all kinds of direct and indirect advertisements of tobacco products.
  • To circumvent them, surrogate advertising is done.
    • A few years ago, the Delhi government pulled up actor Pierce Brosnan for endorsing an Indian pan masala brand. Brosnan claimed he was “cheated” by the brand and unaware of the fact that the “breath freshener” ad was a surrogate ad used to disguise the actual product – areca nut or supari, which the Delhi government argued was a cancer-causing agent.

Why are advertisers seeking clarity?

  • As per the new guidelines, a surrogate ad will refer to an ad which indicates directly or indirectly to consumers that it is an advertisement for the goods whose advertising is prohibited.
  • Using any brand name, logo, colour, etc. associated with goods whose advertisement is banned is also not allowed.
  • This is the area that needs clarity, said the liquor sellers.
  • Companies put their name on objects such as water bottles, or events like music festivals for surrogate advertising, but some of these products exist on their own as well.
  • Whether advertising these objects and events will then also be prohibited is unclear at present, advertisers have sought to know.

-Source: Indian Express

June 2024