Alcohol advertising has been a criticized topic for long time in Turkey. The year 2013 can be considered as milestone in Turkey. There has been a major change in the alcohol regulation. Upon the amendments in the “Tobacco and Alcohol Regulation” any advertising of alcohol products has simply been banned in any kind of media. This ban has included broadcasts on TV and radio, ads in the cinema, product replacement, printed media as well as social media and digital platforms. Hence, brand communication to consumers is strictly prohibited in Turkey and total prohibition of alcohol advertisement in any media has been implemented.
For the time being, there is very narrow area where the alcohol brands can make advertising of their brands. For example; the only possibility to use brand logo on designated service materials is on-trade. Trademarks, logos or other signs of alcohol brands can only be used on service materials in business premises which have a license to serve alcoholic beverages. Trademarks, logos, or any signs of alcoholic beverage brands cannot be put on business signs of sellers, sales units, refrigerators, coolers, any other portable and stable materials. Sponsoring any event is also prohibited. Only informative education to the trade people is allowed. It should still not explicitly aim to promote the sale of alcoholic beverages. Campaigns, promotions and activities that may encourage or promote the use and sale of alcoholic beverages are also forbidden. For example, wine tasting to the consumers at the sale points are forbidden. Only specialized publications and scientific publications and activities can be organized exclusively with the purpose of presentation of alcoholic beverages on an international level.
How is alibi branding regulated in Turkey?
Alibi branding is an alternative mechanism for promotion of alcohol brands and in fact, this is a grey area. Due to the restrictive legislation in force, alcoholic beverage companies are not able to perform any advertising or promotion activities in Turkey. This is why they resort to the alternative of alibi branding. This is a promotion mechanism in which alcoholic beverage companies generally carry out marketing activities through specified color and designs which are similar to their own brands and / or slogans which do not contain any explicit brand name or logo in order to remind their brands to consumers through social media, activities in night clubs or organizations etc.
Although there is total ban of alcohol advertising we observe that alcoholic beverage companies launch their online media campaigns with alibi branding that can be signs without any specific brand, logo, trademark and even company names in which color combinations and patterns of the company are used. In Turkish legislation, there is no clear rule about the use of alibi proxy brands. The Advertisement Board issued a recent decision about alibi branding. The Advertisement Board reviewed the promotional activities of a leading, well-known and reputable Turkish alcoholic beverage company in various event such as concerts and cafes, restaurants, bars, pubs etc., without displaying the trademark or image of the products but with an expression “ ” (meaning “together, beautiful” in Turkish). The color combination of this expression matches with the relevant well-known brand of the said alcoholic beverage company. In its decision, the Advertisement Board did not find these activities to be contrary to the Turkish law and to the prohibition of alcohol advertising.
Yet, there are no set rules for alibi branding and these promotional activities still involve some risk as per the explicit letter of the law preventing the use of signs relating to alcohol brands, especially if the signs include too many identifying details which correspond to the actual alcohol brand.
Is advertising of alcohol brands on social media permitted ?
The same legal rules and total prohibition of advertising apply to advertisements on social media. The scrutiny of the Advertisement Board also tend to be strict and conservative in terms of advertisement on social media. A global alcoholic beverage company conducting locally business in Turkey released an advertising film on social media about the product branded “Yeni Rakı”. In its decision dated 2021 the Advertisement Board scrutinized this advertising campaign and did not accept the defense of the company that they were only posting the promotional material on global accounts for its exposure to consumers abroad. The Advertisement Board found that the ad was in violation of the laws and regulations since the advertisements were accessible by the consumers residing in Turkey as well.
In addition to these, it is generally seen that the influencers on social media are encouraged to make some promotional activities (for example; posting certain photos or videos) about alcoholic beverages. This can sometimes be free of charge and without making any written agreement with the producers or importers of such alcoholic beverages. Such activities are not in compliance with the applicable law. The Advertisement Board issues sanctions on these promotional activities on the grounds of advertising ban as well as cumulatively on grounds of hidden advertisement restrictions if the requirements are met.
Yet, it should be underlined that determination of the incompliance on social media advertisement conducted by influencers is more difficult than the ones conducted on television, newspaper and website.
First published by GALA Blog in May 31, 2022.