What are surrogate advertisements? Why is it considered unethical? What are the Central Consumer Protection Authority Guidelines related to advertisement and marketing? Read further to know.
Surrogate advertising is often criticized for being misleading and for exploiting loopholes in advertising regulations.
However, it remains a common practice in certain industries where direct advertising is not an option.
In this article, we shall discuss the topic in detail, from an ethical viewpoint.
Also read: Surrogacy: Regulation in India and the world
What is a surrogate advertisement?
Surrogate advertising is a marketing technique used by companies to indirectly promote their products or services, which are prohibited or restricted from advertising directly. Surrogate advertisements promote a brand or a product that is similar to the banned product, but not the same, in order to create brand awareness and visibility.
Surrogate advertising is commonly used in industries such as alcohol, tobacco, and gambling, where direct advertising is either illegal or highly regulated. For example, a company that sells alcoholic beverages may advertise its brand of mineral water, which carries the same logo and brand name as the alcohol product but does not mention the alcohol product itself.
Ethical Concerns Related to Surrogate Advertisements
The use of surrogate advertising can raise ethical concerns because it can be seen as an attempt to bypass legal restrictions on advertising certain products. Critics argue that it is a deceptive practice because it can mislead consumers by promoting a brand or product that is not the intended target of the advertisement.
Another ethical concern with surrogate advertising is that it can undermine public health efforts. For example, advertising alcoholic beverages through surrogate advertising can increase brand awareness and promote a drinking culture, which could contribute to the prevalence of alcoholism and related health problems.
Moreover, surrogate advertising can also be seen as an attempt to manipulate consumers by using subtle marketing techniques that exploit loopholes in advertising regulations. This can be seen as a breach of consumer trust and ethical concern.
Disadvantages of Surrogate Advertisements
There are several disadvantages of surrogate advertising, including:
- Deceptive: It promotes a brand or product that is not the intended target of the advertisement. This can mislead consumers and make them associate the brand with the wrong product.
- Undermines Public Health: Advertising products such as tobacco and alcohol through surrogate advertising can contribute to the prevalence of health problems such as addiction and related health issues.
- Exploitation: Surrogate advertising can exploit legal loopholes to promote products that are prohibited or restricted from advertising directly. This can be seen as an attempt to bypass regulations and manipulate consumers.
- Negative Impact on Society: Surrogate advertising can have a negative impact on society by promoting unhealthy habits or behaviors. This can contribute to social issues such as addiction, obesity, and related health problems.
- Lack of Transparency: Surrogate advertising can lack transparency because it is not always clear that the advertisement is promoting a brand or product that is not the intended target. This can make it difficult for consumers to make informed decisions about the products they are buying.
Central Consumer Protection Authority Guidelines
Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022 is released by Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) hereby issues the following guidelines to provide for the prevention of false or misleading advertisements.
A few important terms of the guidelines are:
Non-Misleading Advertisement: An advertisement is deemed non-misleading if it presents an accurate and honest representation of the goods, without overstating their accuracy, scientific validity, practical usefulness, or capability. If an unintentional error occurs, the advertisement may still be considered valid if the advertiser takes prompt action to notify consumers of the mistake.
Prohibition of Surrogate Advertising: No surrogate advertisement or indirect advertisement shall be made for goods or services whose advertising is otherwise prohibited or restricted by law, by circumventing such prohibition or restriction and portraying it to be an advertisement for other goods or services, the advertising of which is not prohibited or restricted by law.
Children-Targeted Advertisements: Advertisements that condone, encourage, inspire, or unreasonably emulate behavior that could be dangerous for children or take advantage of children’s inexperience, credulity, or sense of loyalty, etc. have been prohibited. Advertising goods, products, or services to children should not promote negative body image in children or give the impression that the advertised goods, products, or services are better than natural or traditional foods that children may consume.
Disclaimers in Advertisements: The guidelines now require advertisers to include disclaimers in their advertisements, to clarify any claims made or to provide further details on qualifications or ambiguities. Advertisers must not attempt to conceal material information regarding any claims made in the advertisement, which would otherwise deceive consumers or conceal its commercial intent.
Other Laws to Curb Unfair Advertisements in India
The Government of India has enacted several laws and guidelines to curb unfair advertising practices in the country. Some of the key guidelines include:
Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI): The ASCI is a self-regulatory organization established to regulate advertising content and practices. It monitors advertising across media platforms and addresses complaints from consumers and stakeholders.
The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act: This act regulates the content of advertisements broadcast on cable television networks in India. It prohibits the airing of misleading, indecent, or offensive advertisements.
The Consumer Protection Act: This act provides legal recourse for consumers who have been affected by unfair or deceptive advertising practices. It empowers consumers to file complaints against companies and seek compensation for damages caused by unfair advertising practices.
The Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act: This act prohibits the advertising of drugs, remedies, or magical cures for certain ailments or diseases. It also prohibits the advertising of any drug or product claiming to have miraculous or supernatural properties.
The Food Safety and Standards Act: This act (Food Safety and Standards Act) regulates the advertising of food products in India. It prohibits misleading or false claims about the nutritional value or health benefits of food products.
The Press Council Act: This act regulates the content of advertisements in newspapers and other print media. It prohibits the publication of advertisements that are false, misleading, or offensive.
Overall, the ethical angle on surrogate advertising is complex, and it is important for companies to consider the potential negative impacts of this practice on both consumers and society as a whole. It is important for companies to be transparent and responsible in their marketing practices and to adhere to regulations and ethical standards to promote fairness and honesty in advertising.
Article Written By: Priti Raj