Russia Eyes Ban on Beer Ads; Above-the-Line Agencies Set to Lose Out

Last Updated Jul 14, 2009 11:34 AM EDT

Russia is set to ban or restrict beer advertising because too many young people are drinking, the WSJ reports. The clampdown has produced two traditional stock responses from the ad industry: whining over crimps in agency "creativity" and the assertion that without ads, brewers will just use other media to reach consumers. The back story includes this only-in-Russia detail:
Though Russia's legal drinking age is 18, beer is often exempted because it isn't classified as an alcoholic beverage.
Russian regulators may either ban beer advertising on TV altogether or severely restrict the use of humans, voices and animation in ads. Publicis began the whining:
"Every human touch will be killed off," says Yulia Krantikova, an executive at Moscow-based ad agency Publicis United, a unit of Paris-based Publicis Groupe. "It's going to be even more difficult than it already is to create an ad that stands out from the crowd."
History suggests the opposite will happen. Tight restrictions on creativity produce more, not less, creative ads. That's why the U.K.'s ads for alcohol and cars are often so much more entertaining than the direct-sell ads we see in the U.S. British rules prevent certain things, such as sexuality and dangerous driving, from being shown in those categories.

Clients noted two facts which should make agency execs nervous. First, SUN InBev Russia said it does not believe ads affect sales:

Several studies which investigate the relationship between advertising and alcohol consumption show no conclusive evidence that advertising affects overall levels of alcohol consumption or drinking patterns...
Second, Carlsberg said it would alter their media mix, probably in a way that will favor point of sale and promos:
If advertising on TV is completely banned, we'll redirect our media activity in such a way so that current consumption levels [of beer] are at the very least maintained.
Below: Not a Russian ad for beer, but a beer ad featuring animated bears, the closest thing I can find on YouTube.