In October and November 2018, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) investigated complaints against 389 advertisements of which advertisers ensured corrective action for 112 as soon as they were intimated by the ASCI. ASCI’s Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) upheld complaints against 232 advertisements from a total of 277 advertisements evaluated. Of these 232 advertisements, 95 belonged to the education sector, 53 to the healthcare sector, 36 to the food and beverages sector, 23 to personal care, and 20 were from the ‘others’ category. Five advertisements violated BARC guidelines.
Among various advertisements that were examined, the CCC observed that a renowned cricketer endorsing a bike brand shown driving rashly and violating traffic rules, manifested a disregard for safety. In addition to this, a famous celebrity was found to endorse a shampoo claiming to keep hair non-stop fresh for up to 72 hours. In another advertisement, a celebrity was endorsing a well-known brand of glasses promising that the product blocks harmful blue rays from digital media unlike other glasses.
A significant number of complaints looked into by the CCC pertained to the food and beverage sector. The most common reason for upholding complaints was unsubstantiated and exaggerated claims that exploit consumers’ lack of knowledge. It was also observed that the advertisements had unsubstantiated leadership claims, improper use of FSSAI logo in contravention of the FSSAI advisory, organic claims, disparagement of healthy eating habits as well as surrogate advertisements.
D. Shivkumar, Chairman, ASCI, said, “ASCI and FSSAI recently concluded their second year of collaboration via an MOU. FSSAI had given ASCI a mandate for comprehensive Suo Moto surveillance of potentially misleading advertisements in the F&B sector. Over 200 misleading advertisements have been looked into by the CCC and their compliance status was updated to FSSAI. This co-regulation model has been quite effective in ensuring compliance and was recently also referred in a Rajya Sabha question.”
The following advertisements were in violation of ASCI’s Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising. The advertisers did not provide any evidence to show that the celebrities did due diligence prior to lending their name for the endorsements, to ensure that all description, claims and comparisons made in the advertisement are capable of substantiation:
1. Hero MotoCorp Ltd (Hero Xtreme 200r): In the advertisement, cricketer Virat Kohli is seen driving rashly in normal traffic conditions. The advertisement portrays violation of traffic rules, shows dangerous practices and manifests disregard for safety. The advertisement showed speed manoeuvrability in a manner which encourages unsafe or reckless driving which could harm the driver and general public. The TVC contravened Chapter III.3 of the ASCI Code and Clauses (a) (b) and (c) of the ASCI Guidelines for Advertisements depicting Automotive Vehicles.
2. L’Oreal India Pvt Ltd. (L'Oreal Extraordinary Clay Shampoo): The advertisement’s claim, “The power of pure clay in shampoo” is inadequately substantiated as it lacked specific scientific evaluation showing the effectiveness of clay and is misleading by ambiguity and implication. For the claim “keeps hair non-stop fresh for up to 72 hours” the advertiser did not provide appropriate scientific evaluation to substantiate the claim, hence is misleading by ambiguity and exaggeration and is likely to lead to grave or widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers.
3. L'Oreal India P. Ltd. (Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water): The advertisement with celebrity Alia Bhat claimed, “Makeup off in just one swipe,” which was not substantiated. The claim is misleading by exaggeration, and is likely to lead to grave or widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers. The advertiser did not provide any testimonials, or any evidence of the consent of the celebrity for the product efficacy claims.
4. Buy Happy Marketing LLP (VIP Natural Hair Colour Shampoo): The advertisement shows celebrity Vivek Oberoi applying the product with his bare hands, and saying “Gloves ki zaroorat hi nahin. Gloves ke bina hi, isse app geele haathon mein leke safed baloon par shampoo hi tarah maasage karke sirf 15 minutes mein wash kar le. Ye aapke skin par bilkul nahin lagega, sirf aapke balon par lagega”, the claim was not substantiated with any technical test reports and is misleading by ambiguity and implication. The instructions in product leaflet mention “Use gloves when required” while the pack says “can be applied with wet bare hands” are contradictory. Also, the claim “5 in 1 benefit i.e. application on head, moustache, beard, chest and hand” was not substantiated with any safety test reports. The advertisement to be encouraging unsafe practices among consumers. Lastly, the advertiser did not provide any evidence of the celebrity’s due diligence hence violating the ASCI Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising.
Food and beverage
1. ITC Limited (Sunfeast Yippee Powerup Masala Noodles): The advertisement’s claim “Atta Noodles” is misleading by omission and exploits consumers’ lack of knowledge as the product also contains “Refined Wheat Flour” (Maida), the quantity of which has not been declared in the ingredient list on the product pack.
2. Pernod Ricard India (Blenders Pride Music CDs): The advertisement features a man wearing a suit, holding a cricket ball while the tagline reads: “It’s Never Too Early to create a legacy. Be Ages Ahead.” The advertisement is a surrogate advertisement for promotion of a liquor product – Seagram’s Blenders Pride and is misleading by implication.
The following advertisements were considered to be misleading and also likely to lead to grave or widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers.
1. Procter & Gamble Hygiene & Health Care Limited (Head & Shoulders Anti-Dandruff Shampoo): In three advertisements — Print, Digital and Point of sale, the claim, “Keeps you up to 100% dandruff free” requires the adjective “up to” to have an equal emphasis in the super, in terms of font size, weight as well as colour, shape / bold characters, as it is an important descriptor for the claim to hold true. The advertisement’s claim gives the impression that it is able to provide “100% dandruff free” hair which is misleading and it contravened Chapters I.4 and I.5 of the ASCI Code and the ASCI Guidelines on disclaimers in advertising.
2. Procter & Gamble Hygiene & Health Care Limited (Head & Shoulders Anti-Dandruff Shampoo): The print advertisement’s claim, “Dandruff free smooth baal, Rs 2 ka kamaal” is misleading by implication that the product would be effective with a single use of a sachet. “Dandruff free” claim was not substantiated for “single sachet use” for Basic Smooth variant and is inconsistent with the disclaimer recommending regular use for efficacy.
3. GlaxoSmithKline Asia (Sensodyne Toothpaste): The advertisement’s claims, “That’s Why Dentist Recommended” and “Eight out of 10 dentists recommend Sensodyne for sensitive teeth” were not adequately substantiated. The findings of the dentist survey of 2015 showed that 80% of the dentists recommended Sensodyne toothpaste to their patients suffering from dentine hypersensitivity. This data is considered outdated since it did not correspond to the current or the previous calendar year. The claim is misleading by implication.
1. Netmeds Marketplace Limited: The advertisement’s claim, “Netmeds-the pharmacy with over 100 years of experience”, was neither substantiated with supporting evidence of the commencement of their business in pharmaceuticals field to prove 100 years of experience, nor did they provide any independent audit or verification certificate.
2. Ayushakti Ayurved Pvt Ltd (Diabetox): The advertisement’s claims, “Controls sugar naturally”, “Reduces dependency of other medications”, and testimonials of Mr. Shashi and Mrs. Anuradha whose photographs have been shown in the advertisement as having benefitted from the treatment, were not substantiated with treatment efficacy data.
1. FIITJEE LTD: The advertisement’s claims, “Nobody can compare with our results in JEE Advanced/ IIT-JEE, JEE Main, Boards, KYPY, Olympiads, NSEJS & NTSE”, “No one can beat our expertise- Our 26 years of unblemished record is filled with excellence and extraordinariness”, and “We are the only institute capable of training faculty for not just IIT-JEE/ JEE advanced but also for JEE Main, Boards, KYPY, Olympiads & NTSE. Other institutes have tried and failed miserably”, were not substantiated with verifiable comparative data, or through a third party validation. The claims are misleading by exaggeration and likely to lead to grave or widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers.
2. Landmark Immigration: The advertisement’s claim, “95% success rate*”, was not substantiated with third party validation or verifiable supporting data to prove their 95% success in enabling immigration for their students to study abroad. The claim, “No. 1 Consultant in India for Canadian and USA Colleges”, was not substantiated with third party validation or verifiable comparative data of the advertiser’s institute and other immigration consultants in India, to prove that it is in leadership position (No.1) as compared to the rest.
The following five advertisements violated the BARC Guidelines; BARC Guidelines require that for any leadership claim, the period of comparison must cover at least four consecutive weeks, and at least four consecutive clock hours of data. The leadership claims in all five cases below were based on two consecutive hours instead of four, and hence violated the BARC Guidelines.
1. ARG Outlier Media (Republic TV): In the advertisement mailer dated 24th August, Republic TV has made leadership claim under Single Event Reporting.
2. ARG Outlier Media (Republic TV): In the advertisement mailer dated 31st August, Republic TV has made leadership claim under Single Event Reporting.
3. ARG Outlier Media (Republic TV): In the advertisement mailer dated 6th September, Republic TV has made leadership claim under Single Event Reporting.
4. ARG Outlier Media (Republic TV): In the advertisement mailer dated 14th September, “Republic TV has made leadership claim under Single Event Reporting.
5. ARG Outlier Media (Republic TV): In the advertisement mailer dated 20th September, Republic TV has made leadership claim under Single Event Reporting.
1. Hindustan Unilever Ltd (Vim Anti Smell Bar): The advertisement’s claim, "New Vim” was misleading as the product with this formulation was launched in mid-2017. The advertisement was published in August 2018. Hence, the advertisement is likely to lead to grave or widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers.
2. LG Washing Machine: In the advertisement, the ad-sticker displayed on the product (washing machine) did not provide details of the LG rat away technology used in their semi-automatic machine, which keeps the rats away, thus preventing any harm to the machine. The claim of “rat away” was unsubstantiated. Additionally, the claim of “India’s First” was not substantiated with comparative data, to prove that they are the first to use this technology.
3. Godrej Consumer Products Ltd (GoodKnight Patches): The advertisement’s claim, “100% Natural”, is misleading by implication and omission. The claim does not mention that this claim is limited to only the active ingredients.
Suo Moto surveillance by ASCI
The following advertisements were in violation of ASCI’s Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising. The advertisers did not provide any evidence to show that the celebrities did due diligence prior to lending their name for the endorsements, to ensure that all claims, description and comparisons made in the advertisements are capable of substantiation, nor did the advertiser submit any testimonials or any evidence of the consent of the celebrity before endorsement:
1. Lenskart.com (Lenskart Blu Smartphone Lenses): The advertisement’s claim, “Aankhe toh thakengi hi ...kyunki digital screens Mein hoti hain harmful blue light… Jo na ruke ordinary lenses se…Na anti-glare se… Ruke to sirf lenskart blue lenses se…” was not substantiated with reliable evidence that digital screens emit blue light and its exposure is harmful to users. The advertiser did not submit any comparative data to prove the effectiveness of the Lenskart Blue Lens in obstructing the harmful blue light of the digital screen, compared to regular lenses and antiglare lenses. Also, the visual of Katrina Kaif urging customers to visit the Lenskart store for a Lenskart Blue demo when seen in conjunction with the claims is likely to mislead consumers regarding the product efficacy.
2. Rasna International Pvt. Ltd (Native Hatt Aampanna): The advertisement’s claim, “No chemicals, preservatives”, was not substantiated with supporting data showing absence of any chemicals in the product. The claim is misleading by exaggeration, and is likely to lead to grave or widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers. The advertiser did not provide any evidence to show that celebrity Kareena Kapoor had done any due diligence.
The CCC found claims in the advertisements by following 19 advertisers that were not substantiated and thus, in violation of ASCI Guidelines for Advertising for Educational Institutions.
1. Swami Vivekanand Center: The advertisement’s claim, “Institute that has given most State's selection” was not substantiated and is misleading by exaggeration.
2. Excellence Classes: The advertisement’s claim, “Institute in the state that has given highest selections and toppers” is unsubstantiated and misleading by exaggeration.
3. LNCT University: The advertisement’s claim, “The most trusted in MP”, was not substantiated with a third party validation or any supporting comparative data of the advertiser’s institute and other similar institutes in MP or market survey data. The claim, “No. 1 Technical, Medical and Professional Group of Central India”, was not substantiated with a third party validation or verifiable comparative data, to prove that it is in leadership position (No.1).
1. Dabur India Limited (Dabur Honitus Syrups): The advertisement’s claims, “Chemical Free” and “Sahi hai, kyunki chemicals nahi hai” are misleading by omission that they are in reference to only allopathic actives. The claim “Sahi hai, kyunki chemicals nahi hai” unfairly denigrated other cough syrup brands containing allopathic ingredients which are legally permitted to be marketed in India.
2. Dr. Batras Positive Health Clinic (Geno Homeopathy): The advertisement’s claims, “Treatment for today + Prevention for tomorrow” and “Prevents the risk of any hereditary illness through timely treatment”, were not substantiated and are misleading by exaggeration. The Gene based treatment cannot be termed as pure Homoeopathy as diagnosis and treatment in homoeopathy is based on history of the patient and signs and symptoms. For Homeopathy, history forms a very important tool for prescription of medicine, not genetic analysis. It is not possible to give homoeopathic treatment unless and until the symptoms appear. Also, Geno Homoeopathy is not recognized branch in India.
3. Dr. Batra’s Positive Health Clinic: The advertisement’s claims (in Hindi) as translated in English, “Complete solution to hair” and “Complete solution to skin”, were not substantiated with supporting clinical evidence or treatment efficacy data. Efficacies being depicted via images of before and after the treatment are misleading and imply cure from baldness and white spots (vitiligo).
Food and beverage
1. Rex (U&A) Remedies Pvt Ltd – Food product (Heartorex Syrup): The advertisement’s claim, “Hum Heartorex pite hai, jo cholesterol ghata ta hai, blood ko patla karta hai, aur blockage bhi ghathi hai.”, Voice over claim, “Heart rate ko normalize karta hai aur high blood pressure ko kam karta hai” implies that by consumption of the product there would be no chance of a heart attack and was not substantiated with supporting clinical evidence of product efficacy, and is misleading.
2. Sri Anagha Refineries Private Limited (Sun Premium Refined Sunflower Oil): The advertisement’s claim, “Prestigious rising brand of India award for the best in quality and fastest rising brand”, was not substantiated with copy of the award certificate, details of the criteria for granting the award, references of the award received such as the year, source and category.
1. Hindustan Unilever Ltd (Ponds Oil Control Face Wash): The advertisement’s claim, (in Kannada), “All day oil control” was inadequately substantiated and is misleading by implication. The claim “control” implies maintenance of sebum level at a particular fixed value whereas, the product is demonstrating “reduction” in sebum and not “control” over the 12 hour period. The claim is likely to lead to grave or widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers.
2. Vcare Herbal Concepts (P) Limited (Vcare Shampoo Hair Colour): The advertisement’s claim, “Unlike others it does not have harmful substance like PPD that causes allergy, rashes, dermatitis and can also cause cancer”, was not substantiated with any evidence of the ingredients present in the product and with specific benefits attributable to the ingredients responsible for the hair growth. The claim, “Hair growth factors that help to increase hair growth and colours hair in just five mins”, was not substantiated with product efficacy data.
3. Maa Herbals (Maa Herbal Hair Oil): The advertisement’s claims, “Rich Source of Vitamin E stimulates hair growth”, “Cures Hair Loss”, “Prevents migraine attacks”, and “Helps in blood pressure control”, were not substantiated with evidence of product efficacy.
1. Motilal Oswal Financial Services Ltd: The advertisement’s claim, “Rupees one crore invested in value strategy has grown to Rupees 25.09 Crore in just 15 years”, was misleading by omission of appropriate disclaimers.
2. Pitambari Klenz Nanowash: The advertisement’s claim, “24 hour protection from Bacteria”, was inadequately substantiated, and is misleading by exaggeration.
3. Phoenix Agencies (Aqua Phoenix Water Purifier): The advertisement’s claims, “No.1 RO Water Purification System”, and “Most Reliable”, were not substantiated with a third party validation or any verifiable comparative data to prove that it is in leadership position (No.1) and more reliable than the rest. The source for the claim of being “No.1” was not indicated in the advertisement.