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Need to evolve ad guidelines for digital: D Shivakumar, Chairman, ASCI

In conversation with, the newly appointed chairman said there's a need for the Advertising Standards Council to work with new-age industries and evolve advertising guidelines for the digital medium, which is growing at an exponential pace in India

D Shivakumar

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) may soon start work on crafting self-regulatory guidelines for the digital medium.

"We need to evolve the guidelines for the new medium — digital," D Shivakumar, Chairman of the Advertising Standards Council, told in an interview.


Unlike other mass media platforms, the self-regulatory guidelines for digital are not clear. Though responsible brands have been adhering to the larger advertising guidelines, ASCI is yet to draw self-regulatory limitations.

"How self-regulation and its policies will impact this medium is something we need to think about," said Shivakumar, who's also the Group Executive President, Corporate Strategy at Aditya Birla Group.


Digital advertising in India is growing around 30% annually. Currently, the medium has annual revenue of around Rs 12,000 crore.

Shivakumar said his objective as ASCI chairman was to increase awareness about the council and expand engagement with ordinary consumers on digital platforms.

“My vision is to increase awareness about ASCI among consumers. Our awareness is low today and we should do a lot more in the digital space to increase engagement with the ordinary consumer. ASCI has excellent collaboration with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and Department of Consumer (DoCA), Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), Ministry of Health (expert committee for HFSS), AYUSH, etc. My goal would be to strengthen the eco system and ASCI’s role in it. We would work towards getting more industry participation and working closely with the government, regulator and the ecosystem. New-age industries should also participate in this eco system,” said Shivakumar.

ASCI is often criticised for being a toothless body but Shivakumar points out that its rate of compliance is 90% and that for a self-regulatory body, collaboration is the key.

“ASCI is a self-regulatory organisation. Its core capability is to negotiate and make advertisers see all points of view and not just their own point of view. ASCI's role has been acclaimed by various agencies, including the Government. However, it lacked the force of legal recognition. The Government of India took note of this and made sure that at least as far as TV commercials go, they abide by ASCI code,” said Shivakumar.

“At ASCI, we believe more in collaboration and less of directives. Our compliance rate of about 90% stands testimony to effective self-regulation. Self-regulation is the only way we can achieve a win-win-win situation, meaning consumers’ confidence in advertising is maintained, the advertiser has the trust of consumers and there is lesser burden on the regulator,” he added.

The advertising industry felt a little betrayed when the organisation sided with MIB on the watershed hours for the condom ad issue. Shivakumar, however, defended the decision, saying the ads were inappropriate and unsuitable for family consumption.

“Watershed hour restrictions from MIB are for ads deemed to be detrimental to children’s sensibilities as they play heavily on sexual content and sensationalise the act. Some of the mentioned advertising had crossed some limits, so the MIB acted on complaints it received. ASCI is a body that self-regulates advertising content; whose core mission is to maintain the public’s confidence in advertising. Advertisements that were complained against were not educational; instead, they focussed on explicit adult content, which made them embarrassing and distasteful to be viewed, especially in the presence of children during family viewing hours. As these advertisements were not objectionable for viewing by adults, they could be aired during the watershed hours as is practised globally. ASCI welcomed this move, which provided a pragmatic solution addressing the concerns of all stakeholders,” explained Shivakumar.

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