On Wednesday, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) updated its code to widen the scope of inclusivity in advertising depictions. Under this, new areas of possible discrimination or derision have now been included such as gender identity and sexual orientation, body shape, age, and physical as well as mental conditions. “Consumers today have evolved in terms of thinking and mindset, especially the younger generation, which is demanding more inclusive and authentic content. Therefore, advertising needs to keep pace with where the consumers are headed as the aim is to engage with the consumers,” Manisha Kapoor, CEO and secretary general, ASCI, told BrandWagon Online.
The ASCI code already required ads to not deride anyone on the basis of race, caste, creed, gender or nationality. As per ASCI, the new clause is now updated as part of Chapter 3 pertaining to advertisements that cause harm. As per the amended clause, no advertisement shall be permitted which derides any individual or groups on the basis of race, caste, colour, religion, gender, body shape, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental conditions or nationality. According to Viren Razdan, managing director, Brand-nomics, the distance between brands and consumers has reduced today due to accessibility through various platforms. “Measures such as these bring hygiene to the advertising world. Advertising today has to respect the current scenario and the societal moral code. Furthermore, brands need to be neutral in their communications and such guidelines will ensure the same,” he added.
For Ashish Khazanchi, managing partner, Enormous Brands, advertising practitioners are aware of their role in shaping the narratives that exist at the societal level. “However, having a larger body to make sure that we are moving in the same intended direction is a welcome move. We are moving to a future where all brands need to have inclusion and diversity as their core agenda. What is also important is the moral compass of both brands and the agencies,” he stated.
The changes to the ASCI code were approved by the board recently.