In order to promote the interest of consumers, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has come up with several guidelines in the recent past. Some of the areas include greater inclusion in advertising, protection from harmful gender stereotypes, as well as guidelines on new-age categories such as virtual digital assets, influencer marketing on digital media, and gaming, among others. “Going forward, we will put more effort into cascading these guidelines to agencies and clients through training and workshops. Launching guidelines, and then execution and implementation will be our focus. Ed-tech, advertising to children are some of the areas that we will explore,” Subhash Kamath, chairman, ASCI told BrandWagon Online.
Recently, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) released its annual complaints report for the period April 2021 to March 2022, during which it processed 5,532 advertisements across mediums including print, digital, and television. It claimed that in 2021-22, it processed 62% more ads compared to the previous year, and 25% more complaints. Interestingly, nearly 48% of the ads processed belonged to the digital medium. “2021-22 was the year we followed through on our promise of increasingly monitoring the digital media given the way it has been dominating the advertising landscape. We invested heavily in technology and that has worked quite well. We also upgraded our complaints system which has made it very easy for consumers to register their complaints and for advertisers to respond to it,” Kamath stated.
Last month, ASCI stated that advertisements must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence. It said that while advertisements may feature people undertaking gender-stereotypical roles, or displaying gender-stereotypical characteristics, they must not suggest that stereotypical roles or characteristics are – always uniquely associated with a particular gender; the only options available to a particular gender; or never carried out or displayed by another gender(s).
Furthermore, ASCI also updated its code to add greater inclusivity in advertising depictions. The ASCI code already required advertisements to not deride anyone on the basis of race, caste, creed, gender or nationality. However, new areas of possible discrimination or derision have now been included such as gender identity and sexual orientation, body shape, age, and physical and mental conditions. Advertisements that mock or deride anyone on these bases will now be considered in violation of the ASCI Code, ASCI said in an official statement. “We have seen consumers call out ads that mock or deride people, or portray them in unfavourable ways. With this change, ASCI hopes to ensure that advertising becomes more inclusive and sensitised to all sections of our country, and does not perpetuate certain portrayals that have no place in a progressive society,” Manisha Kapoor, CEO and secretary general, ASCI, stated.
The self-governing body had also stated that all virtual digital assets (VDA) products and services should carry the disclaimer ‘Crypto products and NFTs are unregulated and can be highly risky. There may be no regulatory recourse for any loss from such transactions.’ In areas such as crypto, ASCI claims to have received over 300 complaints over the last few months.
Meanwhile, it also launched an Endorser Due Diligence service to help endorsers avoid making misleading claims in advertisements. Under this ASCI has established a panel of experts, from over 20 disciplines, ranging from advertising regulation and legal, ayurveda, microbiology, electronics, market research, nutrition, dentistry, product formulations, financial services, among others. The vision for ASCI is to help the advertising industry creatively make good and responsible ads, in the long run, Kapoor said.
Last year, the advertising body issued guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media. As part of this, ASCI stated that all advertisements published by social media influencers or their representatives, on such influencers’ accounts must carry a disclosure label that clearly identifies it as an advertisement.