Thursday, December 03, 2009


4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri spoke to a bunch of celebs who made sparks fly – before toasting to a ban of this absurd rule!

We live in strange and troubled times, brother …

We are allowed the manufacture and consumption of liquor – but, sorry – (hic) no advertising! Unlike the US of A where alcohol advertising has “regulatory bodies” that create standards for ethical advertising and where the concern is ‘where’ the ads are placed (mostly in media streams viewed by 70% of the audience over the drinking age) here it’s a blanket ban with no ifs, buts, why’s … When pressed, the general response (please don’t have a cardiac arrest, laughing!) is: it’s unconstitutional to propagate evil habits injurious to health and a bad influence to society. All the celebs interviewed – with the exception of the cool and gorgeously opinionated Pooja Bedi – were of the collective belief that this move was the biggest farce ever; a totally hollow, ludicrous, cosmetic and cockeyed, completely self-defeating in both intent and purpose. In today’s liberated and globalised times, with India celebrating economic prowess and quality of life at par with the West, this brain dead vetoing of publicity of a product category which is a way of life for India’s well-healed, sophisticated, aspirational constituency but freely allowing manufa

cture to scoop up titanic amounts of revenue for the exchequer, tantamounts to an epic hypocritical joke! Here’s what the heavy weights have to say …

Ad-Guru & Theatre Maestro Alyque Padamse is first off the block and takes off with all cylinders firing! “Either make Prohibition work or allow the advertising of liquor. The Government must stop this childish and absurd dilly-dallying and decide one way or the other. In today’s life and times, liquor is a part of young people’s lives and no social event is complete without it. How many kids have tea, coffee or cola’s after 8 pm? C’mon wake up and taste the … stuff! The same goes for Cigarettes. If the powers that are had any guts they would ban the manufacture of these products – not the advertising. Isn’t it amazing that they have messages like SMOKING KILLS on cigarette packs and yet these products roll out in billions of units everyday? But then Delhi is notorious for its double-think!” Film-maker Shyam Benegal agrees. “It’s so hypocritical and doesn’t make any sense at all! They don’t ban the name or the brand but just the idea it is liquor and do a quick surrogate advertising number – Kingfisher Mineral Water, Bagpiper Soda … whatever. And the argument that it will tempt the poor is silly because this segment does not connect with IMFL brands and hence advertising affecting them is a non-starter argument”. Actor & Anchor Kabir Bedi goes along this line of thinking, but with a tiny proviso. “I agree with Alyque & Shyam that while advertising should certainly be allowed, one should ensure that it shouldn’t be consciously created in a manner that it makes drinking a fashion statement or a glamorous recreation for the kids and have-nots. We know the power of clever advertising and the influence it can wield as a force of seduction. So, basically I am advocating Responsible Advertising”.

Film actor Jackie Shroff believes that there should be no ban on advertising of liquor as people are sensible enough to understand what is right and wrong. They know what is good or bad for their health and they should be allowed to use their head and heart to make the decision. Film star Sohail Khan agrees and adds that it is indeed extremely hypocritical of the government to ban liquor ads and yet allow their production. “If they are so concerned they should ban manufacture too”. However, he candidly admits that he would love to be a brand ambassador for a liquor brand if invited …

Hi-profile, iconoclast Prahlad Kakkar – as always – shoots from the hip. He laughs away the whole issue with “but booze advertising is hitting the TV all the time in surrogate avtaar!” He believes that one of the big problems is that it gives established brands a huge – and unfair – advantage over new brands. McDowell, Kingfisher, Officers Choice, in any other (soda, mineral water) form is instantly identified. Any dumbo knows what you are driving at … but the new ones get hit badly”. Kakkar believes that (like the West) the zillions accrued by the government in excise from booze sale could well be invested in good, effective communication towards educating the public – especially the kids – about drinking responsibly. “Look what an amazing job they did with tobacco! Today if you go there and start puffing away in someone’s house, you will be looked upon as an outcast! There are spaces reserved for smokers and public puffing is not considered sexy anymore”. However, he adds, that “when law-makers and the establishment are themselves hand-in-glove with the booze-makers in states where prohibition exists, what do you expect?” Free-spirited Pooja Bedi wraps up the debate in her own style, rooting for the ban, “I think the ban is fine because stuff like tobacco and alcohol are not known to work wonders for mind, body or soul! After all advertising is about making a product desirable, attractive and sexy to the consumer, pushing hard on the purchase intent, right? Sure it is not illegal like drugs but hey, it’s not exactly what the doc ordered for health. Sure, guys who want to drink will drink, but banning advertising will (in some small way) reduce the consumption among the vulnerable, impressionable types”.


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