Advertising liqour

I miss liquor advertisements. I really do. There might be some noble intention in preventing liquor companies from advertising openly through television and print (many of them have resorted to surrogate ads, though), but the quality of liquor advertising that I remember from the late 90s (when I was too young to drink) was pretty good. Many of those ads were quite cult.

I remember the vodka ad (forget the brand) where the guy looks through his glass and sees other people in the bar turning into ferocious creatures (the best being the guy with a big moustache turning into a walrus). Then there was the “be what you wanna be” Bacardi ad –  I loved the jingle. The “swinging to Bacardi blast” just doesn’t have the same effect as “sipping on Bacardi rum”. Then there was the Haywards ad, of the two men playing darts in the bar. Such #kvltness! They should have a way to show adult rated ads on TV during late nights, etc. and permit liquor advertising then.

Last night, though, I came across a very interesting form of liquor advertising. Liquor companies are allowed to advertise at point of sales, so you see these huge liquor ads that usually sponsor the boards of “wine shops”. Similarly, you see beer and cocktail glasses that would have been branded with certain brands (in London, for example, the bartenders would be very particular about serving drinks in the right brand of glass. Carlsberg (which I drank a lot of that summer thanks to newfound Premier League loyalty) would be served in a Carlsberg glass only. Guinness in a Guinness glass only. Indian bartenders usually don’t care about this and are happy to give you kingfisher in a Beck’s glass). And in some American style bars, you see neon-light boards advertising certain brands.

At the Hard Rock Cafe, however, where I was last evening, Eristoff vodka has figured out a nice (and innovative – for me at least since I haven’t seen this form elsewhere) way of advertising. They advertise on the menu! It is very simple. Every vodka-based cocktail, or cocktail containing vodka that is there on the menu, says “Eristoff vodka” rather than just “vodka”. For example, the description under “screwdriver” would read “Eristoff Vodka with orange juice”. Simple and elegant way of creating brand awareness, and recall value. And well-targeted also, since if you order the cocktail you immediately get to ‘taste’ the vodka.

There is a reason I avoid whisky-based cocktails. A couple of times I’ve had them, they’ve been generally infused with cheap local molasses-based whisky which has given me  a bad hangover. Now, if only some better whisky company can start branding the menu of whisky-based cocktails, there is a good chance that people like me might order and drink more of whisky-based stuff. Though it still remains that I prefer my whisky neat.

An Illiberal Society

Every few months or so a bunch of (mostly) Bangalore-based liberals go up in massive outrage all over the interwebs. On each occasion, the trigger for this would have been a bunch of cops raiding some bar, and imposing a new set of rules. The last time this happened, it was about cops randomly checking black-skinned people for drug possession and pushing, leading to pubs banning blacks from entering, altogether. This time, cops have instructed that pubs not play “loud, western music” and banned live music from pubs.

Already, pubs and even restaurants in Bangalore have to close by 11 pm and there is no dancing allowed (again because “dance bars” are banned). A bunch of pub-goers hanging outside a few minutes after 11 is an open invitation for the cops to enter the pub and try collect some hafta. The problems are plenty, but the biggest problem is that there is no political solution in sight.

The problem here is that however vocal and loud the liberals may be, they still don’t make up enough numbers in terms of the city’s population to make a difference. The fact of the matter is that the large majority of the city’s population (even if one were to consider only the middle classes into account) is either not bothered about these pub rules, or actually supports the new rules that the police make from time to time.

Firstly, it is not possible in order to have different rules for different kinds of pubs. So whatever rules govern say Fuga need to also govern South End Bar at the end of my road. Secondly, a large number of pubs are in residential areas, and for good reason – you do not want to go too far when you need a drink. There is some difference in terms of licenses between wine shops and bars (the former can’t “serve” liquor) but most wine shops double up as “standing bars” anyway. Hence, it is likely that you’ll have a bunch of drunks patrolling the residential streets late every night.

Thirdly, and most importantly (though I’d like the “police reforms” specialists at Takshashila to weigh in), the police force in the city is massively understaffed and underpaid. It’s not possible for our cops to make sure that despite the presence of walking drunkards, the streets are going to be safe. It will take a massive political effort in order to change this. Hence, given that it is not really possible for the cops to police the streets effectively, they resort to signaling.

By forcing all bars to shut down at a certain time, they signal to the population that they get things under control every evening, and there wouldn’t be much nuisance. The rules regarding dancing are an attempt by the police to somehow extract money out of pubs, since dance bars are officially banned (I don’t know why), and they can use the same set of rules to harass the discotheques. Loud music is again to gain credence among neighbours (remember that most pubs are in residential areas) that they’re doing something about the “menace”. The ban on “loud western music” is inexplicable.

This police harassment of bars is not a standalone problem, it’s part of a bigger problem in terms of police reforms. As a stand alone problem, though, given the small proportion of people it affects, I don’t foresee a good solution. What needs to be done is to aggregate all stakeholders who are affected by this – regular pub/discgoers, pub owners (very important), liquor companies, people selling cigarettes and bondas late in the night, and collectively lobby for change in regulation. It’s not going to be an easy battle, considering that a large proportion of the city’s population is conservative, and will be up in arms against any change in rules. It won’t be an easy task either, since liberal but lazy parties like me (who prefer to get wasted at home) will also not lend support.