The Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) of the Advertising Standards Council Of India (ASCI) has banned as many as 62 advertisements out of the 126 complaints it received across segments during June 2017, said a report by The Moneylife.
Out of the 62 advertisements against which complaints were upheld, 23 belonged to the Healthcare category, 17 belonged to the Education category, closely followed by 10 in the Food and Beverages category, six in the Personal Care category and six others belonging to the other category.
Like other countries around the world, India too has a self-regulatory organisation (SRO) for advertising content – The Advertising Standards Council of India. The three main constituents of advertising industry – advertisers, advertising agencies and media – came together to form this independent NGO in 1985. The aim of ASCI is to maintain and enhance the public’s confidence in advertising. Their mandate is that all advertising material must be truthful, legal and honest, decent and should not objectify women, safe for consumers – especially children, and also fair to their competitors.
If an ad that is released in India seems objectionable, a person can write to ASCI with their complaint. This complaint will be deliberated on by the CCC after providing due process to the advertiser to defend the ad against the complaint and depending on whether the ad is in alignment with the ASCI code and law, the complaint is upheld or not upheld; if upheld, the ad is voluntarily either withdrawn or modified.
Prominent companies whose ads were banned are Honda Motorcycles and Scooter P Ltd (Honda Activa 4G), Voltas Limited (Volstar All Star Inverter AC), Hindustan Unilever Ltd ( Ayurvedic Anti-Dandruff Ayush Shampoo), Emami Ltd (Kesh King Shampoo and Kesh King Ayurvedic Oil), Coca Cola India Inc (Thumps Up, Sprite, Fanta, Maaza), Narang Group (Ocean Active Water) and PepsiCo Indian Holding P Ltd (Pepsi Gatecrash), among many others. These products range from FMCGs to automobile to personal accessories to alcohol and much more.
ASCI said it has processed complaints against advertisements from the general public, the industry as well as from the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Grievances Against Misleading Advertisements (GAMA) Portal. Out of 99 advertisements, complaints against 38 advertisements were upheld. This self-regulatory industry picked up 27 advertisements through its suo motto surveillance of print and TV media via National Advertisement Monitoring Services (NAMS) project. Out of 27 advertisements, 24 were considered to be misleading. 13 out of these 24 advertisements were from the Education sector, nine belonged to the Healthcare category and two were from the Personal Care category, the ASCI added.
A few products from each category and reasons behind banning the ad of the specific product have been mentioned below:
The CCC found claims of 14 advertisements to be violating the ASCI’s code. Some of the health care products or services also contravened provisions of the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act (DMR Act), Drugs and Cosmetics Rules (D&C Rules) and Chapter 1.1 and 3.4 of the AISC Code, while some contravened the provisions of Drugs and Magic Remedies Act.
Hamdard Laboratories (India) (Hamdard Safi): The advertisement came with the claim: “giving your liver, thyroid, and… the support they need…” along with expert’s opinion, it was concluded that specific claims in the advertisement relating the efficacy of the product in respect of liver and thyroid functioning were not adequately with clinical data. Therefore it was concluded that this part of the advertisement was misleading.
Alchem International Pvt. Ltd. (Phytorelief-CC) The advertisement’s claims, “70% reduction in the frequency of Cold N Flu episodes”, “83% reduction in bacterial count within three days”, “Effective, clinically, proven defense against Flu and Cold virus” were not adequately substantiated with robust, large scale clinical studies and with more specific evaluations among statistically significant sample size.
Food and Beverage:
Pepsico India Holding P. Ltd. (Pepsi Gatecrash): It was noted that the font size of the disclaimer in the advertisement was 6 which is illegible and unreadable. Thus, it was concluded that it is clear that the advertisement had violated the ASCI Guidelines for Disclaimers by using a much smaller font for the disclaimers in the TV advertisement.
Coconut Development Board (Coconut Oil): The advertisement’s claim, “Highly nutritious, rich in fibre, vitamin was not adequately substantiated and it was misleading by exaggeration. Also, the claim, “A natural antiseptic boosts energy immune system” is not adequately substantiated with authentic clinical data. The claim, “Reduces obesity” was not acceptable since obesity is due to several reasons like heredity, food habits, etc.
Coca Cola India Inc. (Fanta): It was not that disclaimers in the advertisement were illegible and also not in the same language as the audio of the advertisement (English). Thus, it was concluded that the advertisement had violated part of the ASCI Guidelines for Disclaimers.
Emami Ltd. (Kesh King Ayurvedic Oil and Kesh King Shampoo): The ad claims “No hair-fall, dandruff or dryness”, were not substantiated and most claims made in the advertisement were false and misleading. A certain celebrity made claims in the ad which was false and misleading. Further, the advertiser did not submit any evidence of the celebrity lending her name to this particular communication.
Claims in case of the shampoo made through the inclusion of statement as a customer testimonial, wherein comparisons were drawn with other existing products. The claims in the ad were not substantiated with proofs and were also extremely misleading.
Lotus Herbals Ltd. (Lotus Safe Sun UV Screen Matte gel): The ad claims Lotus sunscreen will protect the skin from harmful UVA, UVB rays and stadium floodlights. These claims were not substantiated by scientific claims of product efficacy and with technical trials/tests reports from an independent third party.
Hindustan Unilever Ltd. (Ayurvedic Anti-Dandruff Ayush Shampoo): The voiceover in the advertisement in Tamil as translated into English conveys, “the big problem for hair is dandruff, but on using dandruff shampoos, a bigger fear than that is hairfall.” The essence of the complaint was that the suggestions/apprehensions expressed in the advertisement were that the message “use of anti-dandruff shampoo is associated with fears of hair loss in users”, is not based on any evidence and is hence unsubstantiated”.
Voltas Ltd. (Voltas All Star Inverter AC) The font size of the disclaimers in the ad measures about 13 pixels and hence the advertisement violated the ASCI guidelines for disclaimers.
Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd.: The ad’s claim, “Go Green With Speed For IT Reduces Emissions” was unsubstantiated with supporting data and therefore is misleading by exaggeration and omission.
Times Network Ltd (Times Now): Though graphical representation of “Ruling No. 1” is in accordance with the guideline of the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), however, figures shown are technically incorrect and therefore the ad is misleading.
Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India P. Ltd. (Honda Activa 4G): The ads showcase the pillion rider wearing a helmet without the ISI mark which headgear conforms to the standards of Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). In the absence of any data to indicate that the helmet worn by the pillion rider is BIS marked, it was concluded that the advertisement contravened the provisions of Chapters III.3 and III.4 of the ASCI Code.
An advertiser who knowingly makes false claims faces legal and financial repercussions, in addition to losing loyalty from previous customers. The Logical Indian urges all its community members to complain about any misleading ad. Such ads must be reported so as to ensure that others don’t fall prey to their falsified claims.