Advertising is never easy, especially when you have “restrictions.” Yes, many businesses are subject to state or national laws and regulations. Several countries, for instance, restrict the direct marketing of alcoholic products. What happens when a company is unable to advertise in a specific area directly? They promote their products and services via indirect channels. Surrogate advertising is what we call it in business. Although brands have been using it for quite a while, surrogate advertising may appear novel to many.

Curious to know more about this effective form of marketing? This article will give you a comprehensive understanding of everything about surrogate advertising

What Is Surrogate Advertising

Surrogate advertising is a form where a brand promotes a “forbidden” item under the guise of advancing some other product. With that being said, Surrogate advertising is an advertising practice where a brand promotes a product indirectly by advertising/marketing another product of the same brand.

Surrogate is a word that means “substitute,” and brands commonly use a similar commodity or an entirely different one to advertise a prohibited product. For instance, a liquor company may start promoting its development by selling beverages like juices, soft drinks, etc.

Importance of Surrogate Advertising

It has quickly evolved as an essential part of brand advertising campaigns, it is fair to assume that it’s the only viable option for many businesses. This plays a vital role as it: 

  • Keeps brands alive in the minds of its customers.
  • Enables advertisers to encourage a product indirectly that cannot be promoted directly.
  • Sends out a message that the company is currently fulfilling its social conscience.
  • Helps in the promotion of secondary or less accepted products in society.

Advantages of Surrogate Advertising

Many brands have been using this tactic as their principal promotional strategy. Here are some of the benefits of Surrogate advertisements.

  • Revenue Creation– Surrogate marketing can help brands generate significant sales revenue from banned products. Since it is tough to promote these products through other channels, surrogate advertising aims to raise awareness about them and helps companies achieve their financial and operational goals.
  • Reduced competition- Due to the sheer challenges and constraints for new entrants, it also can decrease competition. Colossal funding is required for a brand to sponsor essential events and public figures. Hence it is difficult for a company with severely restricted resources to make brand awareness.
  • It helps brands survive “intact” in the minds of their customers-It is crucial for each brand to remain at the forefront of their buyers’ minds. Many countries restrict alcohol, tobacco, and similar businesses from direct marketing. This may endanger their competitiveness, but surrogate advertising helps them build brand awareness.

Disadvantages Of Surrogate Advertising

  • In theory, It defeats the purpose of restricting targeted marketing of harmful materials.
  • It is difficult for new entrants.
  • Surrogate adverts usually yield poor brand knowledge and awareness.

Is This Illegal?

This question cannot be answered with a simple “YES” or “NO.”

Yes, surrogate advertising assists many brands in generating massive revenue from selling products prohibited from being advertised directly.

However, the legality of those products is questionable. This influences consumers and encourages them to buy goods that seem harmful to their health.


Since the media has prohibited direct advertisements for products such as tobacco and liquor, many companies are turning to proxy marketing to retain their brands alive inside the minds of their customers.

The most important aspect of a surrogate commercial is brand recall. Companies could easily promote the product these days without directly addressing cigarettes or liquor.

BrandShark is a creative digital marketing agency, where we believe that advertising is an art of storytelling. We aim to commemorate every brand we work on, and we strive to give your story a happily ever after.