Karnataka comes down on surrogate advertisements

K. Giriprakash Bangalore | Updated on March 22, 2013 Published on March 22, 2013


The State excise department has started pulling down hoardings and posters with surrogate advertisements for liquor brands in tier- 2 cities such as Mysore.

Will liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya have to drop Royal Challengers as his IPL team’s name? Can Kingfisher Airlines remain Kingfisher Airlines? Such questions have emerged following the Karnataka Government’s decision to enforce an old excise rule banning surrogate advertisements.

The State excise department has already started pulling down hoardings and posters with surrogate advertisements for liquor brands in tier- 2 cities such as Mysore. This has been done on the ground that such advertisements fall foul of Rule 11 A of the 1967 Excise Licence Rules.

The move comes weeks before the sixth season of Indian Premier League (IPL) kicks off. United Breweries’ Kingfisher brand is the sponsor for at least six teams in the league. Will the name of Mallya’s IPL team come under the scanner too? “As far as the IPL team and the (Kingfisher) airline’s names are concerned, we are seeking a legal opinion. But hoardings which violate the rules are being pulled down,” the state excise commissioner C. Somashekhar told Business Line.

Somashekhar said his department will conduct a drive from April 1 in Bangalore to catch violators of the excise rules. Notices have already been sent to the pub owners as well as liquor retail stores from displaying posters that carry surrogate advertisements outside their premises. “The posters which display surrogate ads by depicting women wearing flimsy clothes will also be banned,” he says.

A UB official, who did not wish to be named, admitted that the company is aware of the excise department’s drive and that it will consider taking necessary steps once it receives the notice. Kingfisher mineral water, a surrogate product for beer, is a Rs 200-crore brand now. Local distillery owners have also been issued notices asking them to direct pubs and retail stores to stop using their advertisement material outside their premises.

They have also been asked not to release surrogate advertisements, which use the name of their liquor brands to promote soda or mineral water. The excise commissioner says that pubs and liquor shops in tier-2 cities have also been asked to display the name of the liquor products sold inside their premises along with the price list. A detailed questionnaire sent to the UB Group Vice-President for Corporate Communications did not elicit any response.

Fair policy

Suman Srivastava, founder and innovation artist at Marketing Unplugged, says that as the government is happy from the revenues it makes from the liquor tills, it is only fair that it allows surrogate advertisements. “The government should take a stand whether it wants to ban liquor sales like Gujarat has or allow it. If they do, then they should also allow surrogate ads,” says Srivastava, the former CEO of Euro RSCG India.

Seeking a clear policy on such issues, he adds: “What will happen if the product extension becomes a bigger business than the existing one. So, where do you stop then?”


Published on March 22, 2013
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