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ASCI issues guidelines on Skin Lightening & Fairness Products advertising

There has been strong and growing concern that advertising of these products tends to communicate and perpetuate the notion that dark skin is inferior and undesirable

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | June 12, 2014

asci-logoIt is never too late. The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has finally come out with guidelines on advertising for Skin Lightening and Fairness products. While all Fairness products are licensed for manufacture and sale by relevant state Food & Drug Administrations (FDA) under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, there is a strong concern in certain sections of society that advertising of these products tends to communicate and perpetuate the notion that dark skin is inferior and undesirable.

ASCI code’s Chapter III 1 b already states that advertisements should not deride race, caste, colour, creed or nationality. Yet, given how widespread the advertising for fairness and skin lightening products is and the concerns of different stakeholders in society, ASCI has felt a need to frame specific guidelines for this product category.

The ASCI Guidelines state that the following parameters have to be used when creating and assessing advertisements in this category:

1. Advertising should not communicate any discrimination as a result of skin colour. These ads should not reinforce negative social stereotyping on the basis of skin colour. Specifically, advertising should not directly or implicitly show people with darker skin as unattractive, unhappy, depressed or concerned. These ads should not portray people with darker skin as at a disadvantage of any kind, or inferior, or unsuccessful in any aspect of life particularly in relation to being attractive to the opposite sex, matrimony, job placement, promotions and other prospects.

2. Advertising should not use post production visual effects on the model/s to show exaggerated product efficacy. The pre- and post-product usage visuals of model/s using special effects should not be dramatised or exaggerated so that efficacy depicted is not drastically different than what can be delivered by the product. Further, the expression of the model/s pre- and post-usage of the product both in the real and graphical representation should be the same.

3. Advertising should not associate darker or lighter colour skin with any particular socio-economic strata, caste, community, religion, profession or ethnicity

4. Advertising should not perpetuate gender based discrimination because of skin colour.

While it is true that ASCI is a self-regulatory body of the advertising industry, and compliance is voluntary, one would expect that henceforth advertisers would advertise their products responsibly and not contravene any of the provisions of the ASCI Code. The guideline is being made available until June 15, 2014 for wide circulation. Views may be sent to contact@ascionline.org in this regard.

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