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64% complaints against print ads in 2016-17, says ASCI

20% complaints in 2016-17 were against television commercials while internet ads attracted 9% complaints, shows an analysis

Complaints against print advertisements topped the list followed by ads on television and internet in 2016-17, says an analysis presented by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) at its 31st annual general meeting held in Mumbai.

64 per cent of the complaints were against print advertisements and 20 per cent against TV commercials. Over 9 per cent complaints were against internet ads.

The council reported an increase in complaints against product packaging (48 versus 35 in 2015-16) and hoardings (40 versus 32 in 2015-16). “This could be due to the ease of lodging complaints against advertisements appearing in such media via ASCI’s mobile app and WhatsApp number,” said ASCI.

During the year 2016-17, the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) constituted by ASCI as an independent body (which has majority of its members drawn from civil society members like consumer activists, lawyers, doctors, educationists) met 49 times and deliberated on complaints against a total of 2300 advertisements. Of these, complaints against 1,242 advertisements (54 per cent) were upheld while 454 (20 per cent) were not upheld.

This significant increase in complaints compared to 2015-16 numbers (1389) was largely due to ASCI’s suo moto monitoring project viz. National Advertisement Monitoring Services (NAMS) that resumed in April 2016 after a gap of one year.

In case of 229 complaints, advertisers sought the newly introduced “informal resolution” (IR) option.

The maximum incidences of misleading advertisements as per complaints processed by ASCI were in the Healthcare sector i.e. Medical Services / Clinics (411) and Medicinal products (372). This is also largely a reflection of the suo moto surveillance that ASCI started as per an MOU signed with the Ministry of AYUSH in January 2017 and the NAMS project. ‘

Other sectors where misleading advertisements have been observed are Education (479), Food & Beverages (319) and Personal Care (165). There has been an increase in complaints against advertisements from the Telecom sector (89) compared to last year (72).

Among 2,300 complaints, 55 per cent were picked up through a thorough surveillance of print and TV media through NAMS and suo moto while 45 per cent were received from the public.

Of 1,215 NAMS complaints, 693 advertisements were considered to be misleading. Complaints against 27 advertisements were not upheld. For a large number of advertisements (139), advertisers assured time-bound compliance as soon as they received ASCI’s communication and sought Informal Resolution. 356 advertisements were in contravention of The Drugs & Magic Remedies Act or The Drugs & Cosmetics Rules.

ASCI processed suo moto complaints (originating from either CCC members, Board members or the ASCI Secretariat) against 57 advertisements. Of these, complaints against 41 advertisements were upheld and one was not upheld. For 15 advertisements, the advertisers sought IR.

Out of the 1,085 complaints during the year (other than NAMS), complaints against 792 advertisements were received from the public. Of these, complaints against 346 advertisements were upheld, 367 were not upheld while 17 advertisements were in contravention of The Drugs & Magic Remedies Act or The Drugs & Cosmetics Rules. For complaints against 61 advertisements, the advertisers sought IR and one complaint was sub-judice.

102 advertisements were intra-industry complaints based on what they considered as misleading advertising or unfair competitive advertising. Of these, complaints against 69 advertisements were upheld, while complaints against 25 were not upheld and complaints against eight advertisements were resolved via IR.

ASCI received complaints against 25 advertisements during the year 2016-17 that were lodged by the ASCI members on a “fast track” basis. Of these, complaints against 16 advertisements were upheld, complaints against four advertisements were not upheld. For four FTCs, the advertiser sought IR and complaint against one advertisement was outside of ASCI’s purview.

Out of the 1,242 upheld complaints, ASCI reported that the compliance was confirmed in 85 per cent cases while 14 per cent complaints were reported to ministry. Only 1 per cent complaints were sub-judice.

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