The government last week yet again issued an advisory asking media platforms and online advertisement intermediaries to refrain from carrying advertisements of betting platforms. The advisory has been issued to all media formats, including newspapers, television channels, and online news publishers with specific examples where such advertisements have appeared in the media in the recent times.
However, ironically, instead of discouraging the betting firms, the advisory, it seems, has made them only more creative. These companies are now looking for innovative surrogate ways to reach their potential consumers, and collaboration with celebrities has been one of their tricks. A recent song by popular singer Badshah has been created in collaboration with FairPlay, an online betting platform.
e4m reached out to FairPlay for their side of the story, but is yet to get a response.
Not just FairPlay, but other betting platforms such as Betway, Dafabet, Parimatch and Stake too have been using influencer marketing to promote themselves.
So, will the government take note of these surrogate channels?
The answer is not very simple, feels Samit Sinha, Managing Partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting.
“If you try to ban something which is a popular human pursuit, especially an addictive one, people will find a way around. Simply banning something will not stop people from consuming it. When it comes to surrogate advertising, alcohol and tobacco brands were primarily the ones to do it. The Kingfisher has an airline as well as an alcohol brand.”
“So the entire area of surrogate ads has completely blurred lines and difficult to say whether it is ethical or not. If there is a product which you cannot advertise and you come up with another token product, I would say that is unethical,” Sinha opined.
Banning things which are widely used by people just creates an underground economy, he adds.
N Chandramouli, CEO of TRA Research, too shares similar arguments.
"Such surrogate advertising is extremely difficult to regulate since it may also infringe upon an artiste’s creativity. Across the globe, there have been cases of brands being mentioned in lyrics, but rarely so blatantly. Ethics in advertising is a touchy subject.”
According to Pradeep Gairola, VP & Business Head - Digital, The Hindu, if the rule of the land does not allow, surrogate ads too should not be accepted by media paltforms.
“We strictly stopped them on our platforms some time back. There was a lot of pressure and we were given examples of other media houses that were accepting it. But we decided against accepting it. In my opinion, if the rule of the land does not allow then surrogate ads too should not be accepted by media. If we come to know someone trying to use surrogacy on our platforms, we will take action and stop it.”
While some media platforms are publishing these ads, there are some agencies giving them creative ideas and best marketing solutions. But should agencies be cautious of working for such clients?
These are individual calls, feels Sandeep Goyal, Managing Director at Rediffusion.
“How far you will go to break the law or just skirt it depends on the value system of each brand. It is also the risk perception: fear of the law or the lack of it. It is easier to apologise later and say we didn’t know or that we thought we were compliant. The same applies to agencies. It is your corporate conscience that dictates whether you accept dodgy customers or not. At Rediffusion, I strictly don’t take liquor or tobacco clients. It is a matter of ethics.”