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The country's apex ad regulator, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), will be shortly issuing the final set of guidelines pertaining to celebrity endorsements. The move comes three months after draft guidelines were first issued by ASCI on the subject as the government increasingly focuses its attention on it.
The Consumer Affairs Ministry has tabled the Consumer Protection Bill, 2015, in the ongoing session of parliament, which provides huge penalties on celebrities endorsing misleading ads.
The key change, however, expected in the final set of guidelines to be issued by ASCI, will be a widening of the scope of celebrities to include famous people from all walks of life, who endorse products and services.
This a big jump vis-a-vis the draft guidelines, which covered only celebrities from sports and entertainment, causing much heart-burn among celebrity managers handling such clients, who found it discriminatory in nature.
A bigger base, say persons in the know, is also expected to help ASCI monitor a cross-section of ads using celebrities, which as a trend has grown significantly in the last few years. Almost every brand, big and small, say informed sources, use celebrities, since it a tested format to build brand recall and salience in a cluttered market.
But ASCI has placed the onus on celebrities to do proper due diligence when endorsing products and services, saying that all claims and comparisons made in the ad should be objectively ascertained and should not mislead consumers.
"Testimonials, endorsements or representations of opinions or preference of celebrities must reflect genuine, reasonably current opinion of the individual making such representations, and must be based upon adequate information about or experience with the product or service being advertised," draft guidelines to be part of the final dos and don'ts say.
Additionally, ASCI has also said that celebrities should have adequate knowledge of the body's advertising code to avoid violations. Advertisers and ad agencies are also part of the final set of guidelines, with the ad regulator saying it it is their responsibility to ensure that celebrities they wish to hire are apprised of its code and the penalties they will attract in case of violations.
Last year, there was much uproar when a parliamentary panel had suggested that celebrities be held accountable for the brands they endorse by imposing a fine of up to Rs 50 lakh and a jail term of upto five years. This was subsequently reduced to a fine only, which is now part of the Consumer Protection Bill tabled in parliament.