On October 20, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) issued a Covid-19 advertising advisory, “essentially asking brands to make sure that any promises related to the pandemic are substantiated through good scientific literature or tests in accredited laboratories,” says ASCI Secretary General Manisha Kapoor.
Earlier, in April 2020, the Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurvedic, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) sought ASCI’s help to alert it about misleading advertisements.
The ASCI has since processed 250 ads and reported 233 from the healthcare sector. Of these, 162 were successfully resolved as the advertisers either withdrew the advertisements or modified them.
The remaining 71 were taken up by the ministry for action.
In the last three months, ASCI’s has through its own National Advertising Monitoring Service also scanned nearly 250,000 ads across 600 TV channels, 400 publications and more than 3,000 digital platforms. On the digital space, it has screened more than 500 advertisements that had Covid-related misleading claims, says Kapoor. In three cases, the self-regulatory body also exercised the suspension-pending-investigation option.
This mechanism, says Kapoor, is used in exceptional circumstances, when it appears that an advertisement is in serious breach of the ASCI code and that its continued transmission is against the public interest.