With the mindset of people changing drastically, it is becoming increasingly difficult for advertisers to ascertain where to draw the line between cheeky and indecency
Surbhi Chawla | Delhi | November 18, 2011
At the seminar on ‘Strengthening Self-Regulation of Advertising Content’ organized by ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of India) in Delhi on Thursday, the first panel discussion focused on ‘The Sensible, Sensational, Sensitive, Sexy: Where do we draw the line?’ It was moderated by Anuradha Sengupta, Anchor/Editor of CNBC’s ‘Storyboard’. She started off by stating that the topic was perhaps the widest and the most difficult to cover as it was a very broad subject. And this broadness makes it more difficult to self regulate. Also there will be a lot of things that can be subjective, which can further complicate the matter.
Piyush Pandey, Executive Chairman & Creative Director, Ogilvy & Mather India & South Asia, started off the session by showing an assortment of ads and film songs. The film began with the popular ‘DK Bose’ number from Delhi Belly, and changed to the Vodafone ZooZoo ads, which was followed by ads of VIP Frenchie, Bajaj Pulsar Mania, Asian Paints, Center Fresh, and then the ‘Beedi Jalile’ song from the movie ‘Omkara’, followed by the Amul Macho ad and rounded off with the Wild Stone Deo ad.
“Advertising should have a conscience. We are at the centre of popular culture and the popular culture is changing quite fast,” said Pandey. He claimed that 95 per cent of all the ads that are being shown are right. ZooZoo, Asian Paints and Center Fresh were the kind of ads that were enjoyed by everyone.
Pandey elaborated, “Ads can be edgy but people should enjoy the edginess.” And one would have to explore what the consumers find acceptable and what’s beyond limits. For example, the jury was out for the Amul Macho ad while the While Stone Deo ad walked the edge very gracefully. He also mentioned that “what is an edge and what is not will also come through self-regulation”.
However, he also felt that sometimes ads “became soft targets” like in the case of the Pulsar Mania ads, which, despite the disclaimers, did not go to well with ASCI, while bike stunts in commercials without a disclaimer had passed off. Lastly, he cited the example of a Vicks ad that was pulled off air from Doorsarshan in 1983 because, according to then advertising norms of the channel, women could not wink on television! “And that ad depicted a two-year old winking at her father,” he said incredulously. He rounded off his remarks by commenting, “Don’t be crude but be prudent.”
Next up was Akhila Sivdas, Managing Trustee and Director, CFAR, who suggested that though the society around us is changing and people have been changing, that did not mean that we can accept everything that comes our way. She urged ASCI to partner with other consumer bodies and become more honed as she felt that “at times it was too slow and playing on a defensive foot”. She also raised issues regarding a recent ad that showed kids who have adult overtone. Furthermore, “objectification of women” was another issue which she felt had been used frequently and despite the changing time, advertisers continued to bank on it. “Sexuality is an old theme and is the easiest to get eyeballs, from a shoe company to an insurance company, everybody has tried it,” Sivdas elaborated.
Lastly, it was the turn of Rajiv Takru, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, who began on a light note stating that his colleagues were very jealous of the job that he was doing, the reason being that he “got to see all the dirty pictures” from all across the country every day and even got paid for it! He said that like Piyush pandey, he too wanted to bring in a 10-minute video clipping but the clippings of the last week itself ran into hours and hence had to drop the idea.
Takru said that everyone had a different view of what constitutes decency, or for that matter what is good or bad. “But in a democratic setup one would have to go by the last mile of people. They are people who perceive whatever media says as being God’s truth and also consider advertising as God’s truth,” he said.
He remarked that there were many great ads that have been made in the past and the industry is “still capable of making very good ads”. He concluded, “Self-regulation is a wonderful idea but it is dependent on two things. First, there should be respect for the regulator, and second, there has to be a lot of self-control.”