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ASCI looks to broaden ties with government

MoUs with health ministry and Trai on the cards; it has signed one with FSSAI for directly processing complaints

Viveat Susan Pinto  |  Mumbai 

ASCI looks to broaden ties with government

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) is likely to soon sign agreements with the Union health ministry and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, seeking to expand its role.

It had recently signed a memorandum of agreement with the Food Safety & Standards Authority of India, allowing it to directly process complaints received by the latter on misleading advertisements.

The ad regulator is also a partner of the Union department of consumer affairs, acting on allegedly misleading ads received by the latter, on a website promoted for the purpose. This website, operational for a few months, allows consumers to complain about any ad in any medium across categories.

Persons in the know say segments such as health and telecom have seen some serious ad violations of late, prompting the move by ASCI. It recently rapped Bharti Airtel, asking the firm to withdraw its 4G speed challenge ad for being misleading. Similar action was taken against ads by Idea and Vodafone.

ASCI completed 30 years of existence this month. It begins a year-long celebration of the milestone, with seminars, workshops and events. “The objective is to continue our initiative of increasing the awareness about misleading ads, how to complain about these and what are the avenues available to consumers, as well as industry, to do so,” says Shweta Purandare, secretary-general of ASCI.

The self-regulatory body will also step up efforts to educate creators of ads about the ASCI Code and what constitutes an inappropriate one. “We are not here to tell the creative community their job. This effort is simply intended to sensitise them about how to avoid misleading or tall claims in the ads they create that can harm consumer interest," Purandare said.

The ad regulator is also likely to renew its contract with TAM for monitoring print and television ads. Inked in 2012, the arrangement for a three-year period had seen the scanning of about 10,000 print ads and 350 on TV each week. This had allowed ASCI to catch errant advertisers in small towns and cities, taking action against them on its own, said persons in the know.

The body is also looking for a digital agency to monitor online ads, a space rapidly seeing incidents of tall or misleading claims by established brands and e-tailers.

Recently, ASCI said it had upheld complaints against 82 campaigns in June, for misleading consumers. It issues news of action taken against brands with a lag. Names such as Flipkart, Uber and Snapdeal had figured prominently in the list of errant advertisers for June, beside brands such as Vodafone, L'Oreal, Fortis Healthcare and Pernod Ricard. June’s action had followed what the body had done for May, when major advertisers such as Hindustan Unilever, Dabur, VLCC and Aptech were pulled up.

Purandare says most big brands and advertisers do modify ads when the body writes to them, at times within days of the misleading or errant ad being released. This is unlike in the past, when ASCI was accused of acting too late, well after the ad had run its course. Speedy action follows ASCI moving from a monthly to a fortnightly to now a weekly cycle of addressing complaints.

The number of complaints to the body against misleading ads has also shot up almost 13-fold in the past three years, from 148 in 2011. This calendar year could see ASCI touching the 2,000-mark in complaints received.

KEEPING A CLOSE EYE

  • Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) is also a partner of the Union department of consumer affairs, acting on allegedly misleading ads received by the latter
  • ASCI recently rapped Bharti Airtel, asking the firm to withdraw its 4G speed challenge ad for being misleading
  • The ad regulator is also likely to renew its contract with TAM for monitoring print and television ads
  • The body is also looking for a digital agency to monitor online ads

First Published: Thu, October 22 2015. 23:15 IST
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