Russian vodka makers confuse people with concealed commercial advertising

Mineral water, chocolates and even magazines are used to disguise well-known vodka brands in Russia

When the Russian government banned all kinds of advertising of strong alcohol drinks (stronger than 15 percent), a lot of parents hoped that their children would be safe from becoming addicted to alcohol. However, the real state of things proved to be different.

It is an open secret that advertising is the driving force of commerce. Furthermore, advertising is vital in the production of alcohol drinks. Alcohol makers, therefore, had to find other ways for promoting their products on the Russian market, evading the insupportable law. Russian people may see commercial ads promoting soft drinks, mineral water, chocolates or even magazines, although such ads bear some resemblance to well-known vodka brands. One may notice such striking similarity not only with labels, but also with bottle shapes and designs. Inscriptions “soft alcohol drink” or “mineral water” can hardly be noticed at that.

The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service does not rush to institute criminal proceedings against negligent advertisers, although the department is running out of patience already. There has already been a precedent, when the service banned a confusing advertisement. The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service has recently paid attention to commercial ads of Flagman chocolates on the NTV channel. Flagman is a well-known vodka brand in Russia. Specialists of the department conducted an opinion poll, which revealed that the majority of people perceived the Flagman chocolate ad as the Flagman vodka ad. As a result, the anti-monopoly department ordered the NTV administration to withdraw the Flagman chocolate advertisement.

The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service set similar claims against the St.Petersburg-based company Veda, the maker of Waltz Boston vodka. The company advertised
its products on television in the form of mineral water ads.

Federal Anti-Monopoly Service experts conduct opinion polls to study the issue of concealed commercial advertising. It became known as a result of such polls that a lot of Russian people quickly recognize well-known alcohol brands hidden behind images of mineral water, chocolates, etc. The Russian Opinion Poll Research Center attempted to find out, if consumers pay attention to the disguised advertising of strong alcohol drinks. Sociologists asked people to express their opinion regarding the acceptance of alcohol advertising.

It became known as a result of the research that 20 percent of respondents did not watch TV and did not pay attention to commercial advertising at all. Over 38 percent of people acknowledged that they had never seen the disguised advertising. Twenty-four percent found themselves at a loss to answer the question. Others (about 20 percent) recollected commercial ads, in which they recognized vodka trademarks behind alcohol-free brands.

Water enjoys the greatest popularity among such goods. Fifteen percent of respondents are certain that mineral water ads that they have seen on television were actually the hidden commercial advertising of vodka. A certain amount of respondents recognized vodka in the advertising of chocolates, books, magazines and even in presentations of forthcoming sports events – 0.3-1.2 percent.

A small amount of people (one percent) said that they had seen alcohol advertising in films and TV series – the so-called product placement. There are no legal rules to regulate such commercial activity in Russia, which makes it gain more and more popularity nationwide.

The press service of the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service of Russia told PRAVDA.Ru that the department would probably use the above-mentioned opinion poll to make a special decision regarding inappropriate commercial advertising of strong alcohol drinks.

It is noteworthy that young people notice the hidden advertising of alcohol products in the majority of cases: 37.8 percent of respondents between 18-24 years of age as opposed to 10.4 percent of people over 55 years old.

Sergei Malinin

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Author`s name Olga Savka