The service received an enormous response from consumers, who complained across categories against offensive ads by just sending a WhatsApp message. Even people who do not have email access or are not tech savvy can send complaints easily
BestMediaInfo Bureau | Mumbai | June 15, 2016
A few months back, the Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI) had launched a service where consumers can directly send a WhatsApp for offensive ads. Since its launch in March, the service has received an enormous response and the consumer contact has almost doubled with this complaint platform.
In a short span of three months, WhatsApp is contributing to over 12 per cent of the total advertisements complained against and deliberated upon by the Consumer Complaints Council. With the increased awareness levels, it has also had an incremental effect on the overall number of complaints received directly by other means such as mobile app and website. This has resulted in a 30 per cent increase in the overall number of advertisements against which complaints were filed.
Speaking on the development, Benoy Roychowdhury, Chairman, ASCI, said, “We launched ASCI WhatsApp number with an objective to provide an ‘on-the-go’ and easy ‘where-ever, when-ever’ access for consumers to lodge complaints against objectionable advertisements and to increase ASCI’s reach across India trickling down to smaller towns. This initiative has, indeed, exceeded our expectations proving to be successful within three months of launch. Our WhatsApp number was welcomed not only by consumers but also taken note of by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways, Prasar Bharati, etc. It was called a proactive step to be emulated by other similar agencies. Indeed, we are happy and proud that ASCI is in the forefront of ‘Transforming India’, leveraging technology for consumer meaningful tools.”
ASCI’s WhatsApp number has seen complaints against advertisements appearing in a wide range of sectors such as FMCG, healthcare, telecom, e-commerce, travel, durables, automotive, food and beverages, education etc. Complaints came in from across India, including West Jaintia Hills, Bareilly, Varanasi, Vadodara, Ludhiana and Chennai to name a few. It came from all age groups – right from college students to senior citizens.
These complaints were made against advertisements across media, beyond the conventional -- print and television, such as website, radio, SMS, e-mailers, promotional materials, product packaging, and hoardings among others. Consumers also sent pictures of hoardings, images taken of packaging or print ads, videos of advertisements as they were actually being played on their TV, links to websites, etc. Even housewives or people not savvy with computers and without an email access can send their complaints very easily. Complaints were sent by consumers in their own languages (Gujarati, Marathi, Hindi, Kannada etc.) as typed in English. Some creative approaches such as voice notes were also used. Consumers felt connected and the quick response was appreciated. The ASCI also received spontaneous messages of appreciation from consumers for launching this service.