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Ad council raps 15 firms for misleading claims

Ads for Horlicks and Pepsodent among those pulled up

Piyali Mandal & Sounak Mitra  |  New Delhi 

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) pulled up 15 companies, including GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) and Max Life Insurance, for misleading claims in their advertisements, in a report released on Friday.

While GlaxoSmithKline was asked to withdraw the commercial for its energy drink Horlicks, Hindustan Unilever was asked to pull out the commercial for its toothpaste brand Pepsodent Expert Protection.

In May, ASCI, along with AdEx (a TAM Media Research entity), had formed the National Advertising Monitoring Services (NAMS). It has taken action against 205 allegedly misleading advertisements against which complaints were received between May and October. In 2011, ASCI had upheld 177 advertisements.

In 2010-11, the independent agency, which monitors advertisements in Indian media, received 187 complaints, of which 104 were upheld. According to ASCI, during this period, 85 advertisers complied with its decisions.

“The advertisement (for Horlicks) does not disclose the manner in which Horlicks provides comprehensive nutrition, as claimed in the advertisement,” ASCI said, adding five of the seven claims in the advertisement didn’t follow ASCI guidelines.

An e-mailed query to Glaxosmithkline did not elicit any response. (Click for table)

In a complaint against the print advertisement by Pepsodent, a person had claimed the advertisement gave the impression one didn’t have to use dental floss or mouth wash if one used the Pepsodent Expert Protection toothpaste. An HUL spokesperson, however, said, “The ASCI decision was with regard to an objection on a specific visual depiction in the advertisement. The advertisement was appropriately modified, in line with the ASCI decision and the modified advertisement is on air.”

Several television and print advertisements by major organisations were changed or discontinued after it was found they made misleading claims. In October, ASCI took up 23 complaints of misleading ads. Of these, 16 were upheld.

Other asked to withdraw or modify their advertisements include Cadilla Healthcare (for its Everyouth Natural Fairness brand of face wash, VLCC Personal Care for VLCC Shape Up Waist and Tummy Trim Gel and Healthcare Shape up), the Dainik Bhaskar Group (for its ‘How Divya Marathi opened the new market’ campaign) and Max Life Insurance (for its Shiksha Plus II Child plans).

Some misleading ads feature celebrities. For instance, the television commercial for Sahara Q shops by Sahara India TV Network features Sachin Tendulkar and Virendra Sehwag. According to ASCI’s Consumer Complaints Council, the Sahara commercial used “fear and scare tactics to sell such products”.

“There has been a notable rise in education sector ad complaints being upheld. In the same period, in the healthcare, personal care and insurance spaces were also seen to be releasing ads with misleading claims,” said Bharat V Patel, chairman, Indian Society of Advertisers and head of ASCI’s marketing committee. Six educational institutes figured in the list of those with misleading advertisements.

ASCI said about 80 per cent of advertisers in India complied with codes set by the council. Five years earlier, compliance stood at 71 per cent.

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First Published: Sat, December 29 2012. 00:17 IST