Surrogate advertising is a promotional strategy used to advertise banned products like alcohol or cigarettes. These products are advertised indirectly or masked by another product, called the surrogate.
Understanding surrogate advertising
Surrogate advertising works by duplicating the brand image of a banned product to promote an unbanned product from the same brand. Consumers subject to surrogate advertising associate the latter product with the former in a form of brand recall. This form of recall occurs when a consumer recalls a particular brand after being prompted by a certain product category.
Some argue that surrogate advertising is an emerging ethical and legal issue in the advertising industry. The term is thought to have originated in the United Kingdom as rising levels of domestic violence were linked with alcohol advertisements.
After mass protests by disgruntled housewives, the promotion of alcohol was banned and beverage companies were forced to adapt their marketing strategies accordingly. Surrogate advertisements for fruit juices, soda water, and cocktail mixers quickly took the place of the banned alcoholic products they were associated with.
Five surrogate advertising strategies
Here are some common ways brands use surrogate advertising to their advantage:
- Promotion by extension – where a company promotes new products under a familiar brand name to avoid bans in a certain product category. Beer producer Kingfisher invested heavily in domestic air travel with travel lounges and a freight service to promote their alcoholic beverages. It has also produced yearly calendars with swimsuit models and has sponsored video content consumed by its target audience.
- Promotion by association – where a company focuses on brand value proposition through celebrity endorsements. Royal Challenge is an Indian whisky producer that also owns Royal Challengers Bangalore, a high-profile franchise sports team.
- Promotion via television commercials or content – a common form of surrogate advertising where products outside of a typical company product range are advertised. Royal Challenge also advertises branded water bottles and playing cards to consumers to reinforce their alcoholic brand. Television content can also be a form of surrogate advertising, with the hit series Mad Men set in the 1960s seen as a form of advertising for big tobacco companies.
- Event sponsorship promotion – where a company simply leaves a brand logo at an event likely to attract a large congregation of people.
- Promotion through public service announcements – companies whose products pose a public health risk may use public service announcements stating as much. However, some use subtle cues such as color to associate the announcement with the brand of the product causing ill health. This form of surrogate advertising ultimately contradicts messaging in the advertisement around responsible consumption.
- Surrogate advertising is a strategy used to promote banned products such as alcohol and cigarettes. Companies deliberately associate a banned product with a legal product of the same brand, triggering brand recall in the consumer.
- Surrogate advertising is thought to have originated in the UK, where rising levels of domestic violence were linked with the advertising of alcoholic beverages.
- Surrogate advertising can be performed in several ways. Promotion of a banned product may be achieved through product extension or association. Companies also target television, large events, and public service announcements.