During prohibition, Americans learned that banning alcohol didn’t work. South Africa is about to learn the same thing. The country is not banning alcohol, but alcohol advertising in an attempt to reduce the incidences of alcoholism. It’s a move that will cut 12,000 jobs out of the economy, and according to experts, will have very little impact on alcoholism in the country. It’s also a problem because advertisers are being told what they can and can’t advertise— a move that threatens to turn the country into a nanny state. But will it stop alcohol marketing? Not likely.
This is not an issue exclusive to South Africa. American tobacco and alcohol companies are told, officially or unofficially, where they can and can’t advertise. The medical profession and drug companies were banned from advertising until the late1970s. Companies can’t advertise or market certain products to children or other audiences—from soda to sugar the government is dabbling in limits. The days of tobacco companies sponsoring American tennis tournaments for instance, are long gone. But banning ads doesn’t work. Smart advertisers just find a way to market differently. Even if your product would never face government controls, imagine that it has. How would you market or advertise it differently? Obstacles are often the best opportunity for innovation. Get innovating!
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