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Alcohol advertising in the digital age

Alcohol advertising in the digital age

Cheers! Friends. Reunion. Goa, an original YouTube webseries by the digital arm of United Breweries, is (understandably) replete with actors downing bottles of Kingfisher beer, unaccompanied by the usual warnings about the injurious effects of alcohol (unlike in television or film). After all, the Advertising Standard Council of India’s (ASCI) rules do not extend to online platforms like YouTube and Facebook.

Liquor companies in India have been finding creative ways to market their products to the public since 1995, when ASCI imposed a blanket ban on the promotion of alcohol products in traditional media. Television advertisements for McDowell’s No 1 Platinum Hit CDs and Bacardi’s sponsorship of the NH7 Weekender music festival are just a few pre-Internet methods.

As audiences have moved away from their TVs to their mobile phones for entertainment (a report from Zenith Media revealed that India’s average daily viewing time of online videos multiplied over 20 times since 2012), liquor companies have found it viable to invest in online video marketing without the threat of regulatory action. Examples of this include Bacardi’s travel show #BreezerVivid, Bira 91’s culinary series, Curry Shop, and Cheers!’ Rise and What’s Your Status, narrative shows about young Indians dealing with issues like corporate layoffs and personal relationships.

And yet, as Sandeep Balan, Head of United Breweries’ digital wing, explains, even though alcohol brands are not bound by any regulations for how they choose to market their products online, the audience still determines what they watch. “Content, at the end of the day, becomes crucial on how engaging it is,” he concludes.

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