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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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   Advertising Of Alcoholic Beverages

 Dr. S. Dheeraj Krishnaa


  “ I am more afraid of alcohol than all

 of the bullets of the Enemy”

     - General. Stonewall Jackson

Alcohol and Advertising

Alcohol advertising is now everywhere hidden in plain sight. Take the wonderful soda advertisements which come on TV, the “Soda's”, apparently makes anyone the star of any party they attend. It will make sure all the women are surrounding the man who drinks the said “carbonated water”. Me, after one day, getting awestruck by one such advertisement, searched for the same “Soda brand” in all the stores near me. To my utter dismay, all the shopkeepers I approached, have never heard of the soda made by the brand but are well aware of the Brandy, Whiskey or Beer made by the same brand. Same applies for the song CD's which are advertised during all the cricket matches, which shows the most glamorous party's. This made me think why are these brands are paying lump some money for the Prime TV time during international cricket matches? But are not stocking these products in stores. Then I heard about the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Amendment bill which came into effect on 8 September 2000. This prevents these brands from advertising alcoholic beverages directly. But Private channels often permit alcohol companies to advertise using surrogate means like selling the brand name for soda or water or music.

Alcohol and Our Country

‘The World Health Organisation' recommends that member governments should begin to reduce per capita consumption by reducing the availability of alcoholic beverages. Prohibition plays a vital part in the Constitution of India among the directive principles of state policy. Article 47 says: “The state shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and standard of living of its people as among its primary duties and in particular, the state shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the use except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health”. The states have control over the regulation of Alcoholic beverages.

Surrogate advertising in Mainstream Media

The Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament 2018 for example saw more liquor ads than ever. It was nothing but a charade of surrogate ads that were openly selling liquor. One such instance was a famous liquor brand, showcasing Indian Cricket team captain Virat Kohli marketing a sports drink which is not to be found anywhere easily on any stores. Isn't there a need to crack down on all these fake Soda ads? A study on the youth to alcohol advertising found that underage youth are drawn to music, theme, and humour in alcohol advertising

Advertisement to inducement / Does advertisement increase alcohol consumption?

Certain products can appeal to psychology positively if they are advertised correctly. The perfect way to publicise a product is through communication technology. Furthermore, there is no better way to promote that when India is sitting down on a coach to watch a major Cricket match. When it comes to sports, all ages, male and female, tune in to see what is going on. Around the world, everyone watches Football, Tennis, F1, and Olympics. Here in India, our main sport of viewing is Cricket. In the eyes of alcohol distributors, cricket matches is a gateway to the masses and a major staple to showing off products to the world. As many as 500 crore pairs of eyes tune in to watch the big game. A large portion of the Indian viewers is below the age of 21. the alcohol distributors use the time promote their advertisements. Not only do they play the ads, but they also advertise on the Jersey, Caps, Bats, Cheerleaders, Stumps, Boundary lines, etc. The sex appeal in alcoholic advertisements is also very alarming. Almost every Television commercial shows people at beach parties having a good time and relaxing with the opposite genders. The most obvious reason sex appeal works in advertising is that it grabs everyone's attention. Both males and females are attracted to this type of advertisement because for our psychology, sex does sell. We as humans are naturally connected with anything that has sexual imagery or innuendo towards it. It's that simple, we just get attracted to when we see the opposite gender. This type of advertisement is especially more dangerous for young teens who are going through their puberty. We know that in puberty, hormones get stronger and they become more curious about the opposite sex, so once exposed to any type of sex appeal, their attention is heightened and they pay closer attention. Alcoholic distributors will take that to their advantage. They show some sex appeal with a female or male, so once that is seen, the distributor has accomplished two important factors for their advertisement; they have caught the attention of the viewer and exposed their product in a very pleasing way to the target audience. Using this sex appeal to attract viewers provides them with an idea that if you drink, you will have the confidence to approach the opposite sex. It attracts the youth by propagating an image of a young man or women confident in themselves to able to approach the opposite gender easily. As per a study

”37% of males are influenced by friends or other forms of media, like music, and superstars, to approach and talk to females whom they like.” By instilling them that alcohol gives them power and confidence, just by drinking an alcoholic beverage, they are even more tempted to go out and try a drink to achieve any of these goals. Constantly viewing something can almost subconsciously print it in your mind. During school and College, some teenagers spend countless number of hours in front of some form of media whether cell phones, computers, or anything else. A study says “ School students will spend about 20000 hours in front of the television or another form of media, more time than they spend in school. During this time they will watch about 1,000 alcohol morphed commercials on television each year.”  With overexposure to the ads, it can lead to more alcoholic consumption. Alcohol advertisements are also present as banners all around the cities in Bus stops, as banners over shops, behind buses, etc. This increases the exposure time exponentially. Also movies, in which the Super then life protagonist drinks and smokes in a “Macho” stylish manner, this inspires their fans and viewers to try the same style in life. This is also called the “Marlboro man” effect, which portrays manliness with smoking and alcohol drinking.


The introduction of mobile phones and the affordability of mobile data has been a boon to the country. We are able to reach the unreached and voice out things which we had never-ever thought was possible earlier. But this has also turned into a bane as it puts huge, uncensored data in the hands of the general populace. This data does not know to discriminate between the young and the old. This can be tapped as a useful resource by anyone who wishes to misuse it. Anyone can access the website of these alcohol manufacturers with ease, which can lead to this information reaching the youth population.

Way forward

The government with inputs from agencies like the Medical Council of India etc must find a way to curtail these surrogate ads to prevent the large-scale acclimatisation of the Indian youth to Alcoholic beverages as well as other addiction causing products. Schooling must include anti-alcohol as well as anti-tobacco innuendos in its curriculum. At present schooling chooses to avoid involving alcohol and tobacco in their syllabus. Avoiding a topic will not help in prevention. 3 in 5 youth in India suffer from some form of mental health problems, caused by stress in school, college, home, jobs etc. This makes alcohol and other substances as an easy way out of these issues. Alcohol also affects the inhibition centres of the brain, leading people to do things which they will hesitate to do on a normal state of mind. This leads to various criminal activities among the Indian youth. Alcohol also increases the suicidal tendency as it exaggerates the emotion and inhibits pain control centres of the brain. A healthcare helpline number for alcohol addiction must be introduced and must be made mandatory for all the alcohol brands to add it to their advertisements as well as add a warning message about alcohol in their advertisements which includes talking about the medical issues it causes such as liver disease, addiction, impotence, cancer, psychological disorders, etc. This must be enforced on all brands which use their logos and brand name for alcohol products as well as to other products. If they have to circumvent this, they have to name their non-alcohol product as a totally different brand from their alcoholic brand. This should be applicable to all the ads including TV, Newspaper, Banner etc. Online listing and advertising of alcoholic beverages and other substances must be banned and enforced with huge fines to prevent this data from reaching the youth populace.  This will either deter them from advertising or it may also spread awareness. Also, alcohol use on movies in a positive theme i.e, in songs, giving a cool factor for drinking-smoking, etc must carry separate taxation on the movie as well as make the Movie “A” rated, preventing the use of substance abuse in movies. On the other hand, spreading awareness about alcohol drinking and awareness about substance abuse in movies and other forms of media must be encouraged by the government. This is how positive reinforcement must be brought on to this issue. The alcohol companies must also be forced to advertise about the governments de-addiction programmes, about the detrimental effect of alcohol and Driving Under Influence in Road Traffic Accidents by making sure the licenses of the companies gets renewed only after a set limit of awareness is created by them. The companies must also sponsor for the DUI prevention programmes conducted by the Tamil Nadu Police. This is the way of bringing accountability among these companies.

“..Drink makes a man forget himself. He creases to be a man for the time being. He becomes less than a beast and he is unable in his drunken state to distinguish between his wife and sister. He loses control over his tongue and other limbs. It never does the slightest good. I hope, therefore, that you will combat the curse with all your strength..”(23/3/1925)



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