Taking cognisance of a complaint filed by MP Tarun Vijay, the Advertising Standards Council of India (Asci) has asked British consumer goods maker Reckitt Benckiser to rectify its advertisement for Dettol soap. The ad, which was published in leading dailies in February, spoke of how Dettol, if used everyday for bathing, could help keep a child healthy during exams.
Author-journalist Vijay said the tone and tenor of the message “disturbed” him, since it exerted pressure on students to get cent per cent marks. “The day I saw the ad, I immediately complained to the Asci,” he says. While Asci Secretary-General Allen Colaco says the complaint was upheld in March for misleading readers into believing that the use of Dettol would lead to “100% health, 100% marks”, a Reckitt spokesperson says the ad is not in circulation at the moment. “The ad is not being run,” the spokesperson said.
This is not the first time when a complaint against an ad that has violated the Asci code has been upheld after it has run its course.
Two years ago, FMCG companies Hindustan Unilever and Procter & Gamble locked horns over the former’s attempt at “disparaging” the latter’s Tide brand in a commercial for Rin. While P&G moved quickly by filing a complaint with Asci, the Rin commercial had run its course by then. HUL had taken advantage of the weekend during Republic Day (January 26) to air the ad repeatedly. By the time P&G hit back, HUL had finished communicating the message.
The city-based Asci has, in recent months, introduced a fast-track service to address complaints quickly. But advertising industry executives say it is not enough. The reason: lack of a legal back-stop for violations in print, outdoor and other media. In the case of television commercials, the 1985-founded Asci’s code of self-regulation has been made part of the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act, 1994, but that is not the case with other media. Persons in the know say advertisers take advantage of these loopholes to communicate their message.