In December 2018 and January 2019, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) investigated complaints against 415 advertisements, of which the advertisers ensured corrective action for 125 as soon as they received the complaints from ASCI. ASCI’s Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) upheld complaints against 230 advertisements from a total of 290 advertisements evaluated by them. Of these 230 advertisements, 106 belonged to the education sector, 61 to the healthcare sector, 32 to the food and beverages sector, nine to personal care, and 22 were from the ‘others’ category.
Among several advertisements that were examined, the CCC observed that in two separate cases, renowned cricketers were endorsing liquor brands, which did not meet the ASCI Guidelines for Qualification of Brand Extension of Product or Service. Additionally, a famous Bollywood celebrity was seen endorsing two face cream product variants of the same brand; both made absolute claims of removal of skin marks, which were unsubstantiated and hence misleading. Advertisements for two hair oil brands featuring celebrities were considered misleading. Claims regarding mosquito repellent product by a famous Bollywood celebrity and claims regarding an online pharmacy endorsed by a cricketer were considered to be unsubstantiated. These advertisements were in violation of ASCI Guidelines on Celebrities in Advertising.
A significant number of complaints pertained to the education sector arising out of suo motu surveillance activity by ASCI followed by healthcare products and services. The most common reason for upholding complaints were unsubstantiated and exaggerated claims that exploit consumers’ lack of knowledge.
D. Shivakumar, Chairman, ASCI said, “Being a self-regulatory organisation in advertising, ASCI’s efforts have always been towards protecting the interest of consumers. In order to create mass consumer awareness about objectionable advertisements, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) issued an advisory for a scroller to be carried by all TV broadcasters in support of self-regulation for grievance against objectionable advertisements that refers to ASCI. With more and more TV channels carrying the ASCI WhatsApp number 77100 12345 in a scroller, there has been over a 10-fold increase in consumers reaching out to ASCI. The impact of this scroller is evident from this consumer video testimonial.”
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 to the endorsements, to ensure that all description, claims and comparisons made in the advertisement are capable of substantiation:
1. Allied Blenders and Distillers Pvt Ltd (Officers Choice Blue Snacks): In two advertisements, celebrity MS Dhoni was seen endorsing surrogate advertisements for the promotion of a liquor product – Officer’s Choice Blue. The advertisements are misleading by implication and contravened Chapters I.1, I.4 and III.6 (b) of the ASCI Code. Furthermore, the advertisements did not meet the requirements of the ASCI Guidelines for Qualification of Brand Extension Product or Service and thereby contravened Chapter III.6 (a) of the ASCI Code.
2. United Spirits Ltd (Royal Challenge Sports Drink): In the advertisement, famed cricketer Virat Kohli was seen pulling the emergency chain in a train. When the train stops, he says it is a bold move to pull the emergency chain. The advertisement is a surrogate advertisement for promotion of liquor product - Royal Challenge whisky. The advertisement is misleading by implication as it did not meet the requirements as per ASCI's Guidelines for Qualification of Brand Extension of Product or Service and thereby contravened Chapter III.6 (a) of the ASCI Code. The advertiser also did not submit any testimonials, or evidence of celebrity’s consent for the claims.
3. Bajaj Corp Ltd (Bajaj Nomarks Ayurvedic Antimarks Cream): The advertisement’s claim, “No Nishaan” is an absolute claim and implies that the product delivers such results which will leave no mark on the skin under any condition irrespective of individual skin type, which was not substantiated as the study results did not support complete removal of marks. Additionally, the product claim of being “New” was not justified since it was only a change in packaging graphics and the disclaimer was also not on the same front panel, thus the product pack claim of “New” is misleading by ambiguity and implication. Additionally, the advertisement featuring celebrity Taapsee Pannu was found to violate the ASCI Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising.
4. Bajaj Corp Ltd (Bajaj Nomarks Ayurvedic Antimarks Cream): The front panel of the product pack claims “New” but the disclaimer added on the back of the pack reads, i.e. “New Pack Graphics”, which is a violation of ASCI Guidelines for Disclaimers. The advertisement featuring celebrity Taapsee Pannu was also found to violate the ASCI Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising.
5. Marico Ltd (Hair and Care Fruit Oil): The advertisement’s claim, “Hair & Care Fruit Oil has nutrition of Olive and Vitamin E oil”, was inadequately substantiated and was misleading by implication as the Advertiser did not provide any evidence showing some measure of nutrition provided by the ingredients. The advertisement featuring celebrity Shraddha Kapoor was also found to violate the ASCI Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising.
6. Dabur India Ltd (Dabur Amla Hair Oil): The advertisement’s claim “Asli Amla, Dabur Amla” was considered to be misleading by implication. Additionally, the advertisement makes reference to a green bottled ‘sadharan amla’ oil and claimed two times superiority compared to Nihar Shanti amla. Phrases like “Sasta amla, wo to sirf man ko shanti dene ke liye theek hai” are crafted to directly refer to “Shanti Amla” and an intent to point to “Shanti Amla”. Hence, the references to “Sasta Amla” and “Mann ki shanti” are misleading by implication. Reference to “Dugne majboot balon ke liye”, shows a hair roller dropping with hair breakage, this was not substantiated and the tests showed that the hair was not two times stronger. The advertisement also featured celebrity Kareena Kapoor Khan and violated the ASCI Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising.
7. Mamaearth: The advertisement’s claim, “Jo mosquito repellent aapke baby ke liye istamal kar rahe hai, who machhar se jyada baby ke liye hanikarak hai”, was inadequately substantiated, and is misleading by implication, and unfairly denigrated the category of mosquito repellents. The claims, “Mamaearth’s Natural Mosquito Repellent, jo aapke baby ko de 100% Natural protection”, and “100% protection indoor as well as outdoor” were inadequately substantiated, and are misleading by ambiguity and implication. The advertisement with celebrity, Shilpa Shetty Kundra, was also found to violate the ASCI Guidelines for Celebrity in Advertising; the visual of the celebrity when seen in conjunction with the above claims is likely to mislead consumers regarding the product efficacy.
8. Netmeds Marketplace Limited: The advertisement’s claim, “The pharmacy with over 100 years of experience” was misleading and is likely to lead to grave or widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers. The claim, “Trusted by three million+ Indians”, was not substantiated with any market survey data or with an independent third-party validation. The advertisement featuring celebrity MS Dhoni, was also found to violate the ASCI Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising. It was concluded that the visual of the celebrity when seen in conjunction with the claims is likely to mislead consumers.
Food and beverage
1. Gujarat Co-Operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd (Amul Milk): The advertisement’s claim “Fresh Har Pal”, was not substantiated, and is misleading by ambiguity. During the CCC, it was noted that the shelf life of pasteurised milk is limited and claiming it to be fresh always is misleading. The CCC also observed that the FSSAI regulations on Advertising and Claims also refer to such claims.
2. United Oil Industries (Swarnam Gingelly Oil): The advertisement’s claim, “Only brand which has passed the GLC (Gas Liquid Chromatography) test”, was not substantiated with comparative technical data/test results for the advertiser’s product and other Sesame oil brands, to show that other oils do not pass the GLC test. The claim, “Omega 3 rich oil which is healthy for Skin and Blood pressure”, was not substantiated with scientific rationale, or clinical evidence for the advertised product.
3. Allied Blenders and Distillers Pvt. Ltd (Sterling Reserve Music CDs): The advertisement depicting the Sterling Reserve brand name is a surrogate advertisement for promotion of liquor product – Sterling Reserve whiskey. The advertiser did not provide in-store availability of the product which must be at least 10% of the leading brand in the category of the product. The advertisement contravened ASCI's Guidelines for Qualification of Brand Extension of Product or Service.
1. Bennett Coleman & Co Ltd- Bennett University: The advertisement’s claim, “100% placement for 2016-18 MBA class: 27 companies”, was not substantiated, and is misleading by omission. The claim, “Average CTC Rs. 7.8 lakhs per annum.”, was not substantiated with supporting evidence to prove that students were offered the claimed salary packages, and the calculation taking into account the entire class strength and the CTC per student to arrive at the average CTC figure.
2. WeMakeScholars: The advertisement’s claims, “WeMakeScholars in association with SBI”, “WeMakeScholars supported by IT Ministry, Government of India”, and “Under digital India campaign”, were not substantiated with supporting evidence of their tie-ups with the Government and are a case of misrepresentation. The claims are making unjustified use of the names of Government departments, Ministries and SBI.
1. Marico Ltd. - Nihar Naturals Shanti Amla Hair Oil: The advertisement’s claim “Zamana badal gaya hai aur aamla tel bhi” implies that the advertised product has changed in terms of formulation. The claim was misleading by ambiguity and implication.
2. R. G Marketing Pvt Ltd (Qraa Gold Illuminating Face Wash): The advertisement’s claims, “Nourished with the nectar of natural honey and gold dust, this face wash makes skin fresh, radiant and gives illuminating complexion”, “Enriched with Mulberry extracts, it provides an even skin tone and deep cleanses the pores leaving skin fresh and tingling”, and “The rich formula washes away tan and protects it from dryness”, specifying benefits, were not substantiated with product efficacy data and are misleading by exaggeration.
1. Johnson & Johnson Private Limited (Benadryl): The advertisement’s claim, “50 Years Doctor’s Trust” and Voice over claim, “Pachchaas saaloon se doctoron ka bharosa”, was inadequately substantiated and is misleading by ambiguity. The survey relied upon for the claim, was conducted in the year 2012, moreover the interviewed doctors had less than 20 years of clinical experience.
1. Make my trip India Private LTD (Make My Trip): The advertisement’s claim, “Zero cancellation offer” on hotel bookings under Makemytrip.com, was misleading by omission of a qualifier that the offer is subject to terms and conditions. In the TVC, the claim offer, “Zero cancellation charge on Hotel Bookings” was qualified via disclaimer to mention that T&C apply, however the position of the above disclaimer was not correctly placed in the advertisement, and contravened Clause IV of the ASCI Guidelines for Disclaimers.
2. Pitambari Products Private Limited (Pitambari Dish wash Bar): In the website advertisement of Pitambari Dish wash Bar displayed “new” on the image of the image of the current pack offered for sale. On the advertisers YouTube channel the packaging in the commercial dated 2016 is the same as the website there is no visible change in the packaging. The advertiser also did not submit any evidence of the current product (on the website) being “New”. The claim contravened ASCI Guidelines on Validity & Duration of Claiming New / Improved.
3. ACC Limited (ACC Gold Water Shield): The advertisement’s claims, “Desh ka ekmatra cement jo ghar ko rakhe seelan se door”, and “Paani ki no entry”, were not substantiated, and are misleading by exaggeration. The advertiser did not provide technical data to prove that their water-repellent cement acts as a shield against water seepage. The advertiser also did not submit any verifiable comparative data of the advertiser’s product and other cement brands in India to prove that their product is the only one to have water repellent properties.
4. Keystone Realtors Pvt. Ltd (Rustomjee): The advertisement’s claim, “Kids who do better at school, solving problems and facing challenges have one important thing in common: Time with Dad”, is presented as a statement of fact which was not backed with any research data to prove that only children spending personal time with their fathers are good at school, and are able to solve their own problems. The said claim when seen in conjunction with a picture of a father and two kids on a seesaw slide implies that mothers / single mothers are not able to take proper care of kids, or that kids do not enjoy the company of their mothers. Hence, the claim was not substantiated and is misleading by implication.
Suo Moto Surveillance by ASCI
The advertisements given below were picked up through ASCI’s Suo Moto surveillance of Print and TV media via the National Advertisement Monitoring Services (NAMS) project. Out of 263 advertisements that were picked, 91 cases were informally resolved meaning the advertisements were voluntarily withdrawn by the advertisers immediately post receiving the complaints. Of the 264 advertisements, complaints against 171 advertisements were upheld. Of these 171 advertisements, 91 belonged to the Education sector, 55 advertisements belonged to the Healthcare sector, 15 belonged to the Food & Beverages sector, one to Personal care and nine belonged to the ‘Others’ category.
1. The LNCT World School: The advertisement’s claim, “The most trusted brand of Madhya Pradesh”, was not substantiated with any supporting comparative data of the advertiser’s institute and other similar institutes in Madhya Pradesh or market survey data or through a third party validation
2. Omega Classes: The advertisement’s claim, “An Institute to provide most and best results in Western Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand”, was not substantiated with verifiable comparative data, or through an independent third party validation.
1. Dr. Batra’s Positive Health Clinic (Geno Homeopathy): The advertisement’s claim, “New STM which is one inventive hair growth treatment from France”, was not substantiated with any details of the STM Cell treatment procedure based on French technology, and considered to be misleading by exaggeration.
2. NIMS Heart Foundation: The advertisement’s claim, “The prime heart care centre in South Kerala with the highest success rate” was not substantiated with supporting data, or any third-party validation.
3. 24 Carat Natural Oil: The advertisement’s claim “Protect from 80 types of diseases arising from air and heart attack, B.P, Diabetes, Cancer, wear & tear of joints” was not substantiated with scientific rationale, or clinical evidence for the advertised product. The CCC also expressed its concern for promotion of this food product with therapeutic claims.
Food and beverage
1. Gujarat Tea Processors & Packers Ltd (Wagh Bakri Premium Leaf Tea): The advertisement’s claim, “Preferred taste in over 40 countries” was not substantiated with other verifiable comparative data of the advertiser’s tea brand and other leading tea brands to prove that it was preferred for taste over other tea brands, or through a third party validation.
2. Cothas Coffee Company-Cothas Coffee: The advertisement’s claims, “Kannada State's No.1” and “Most preferred and trusted”, were not substantiated with verifiable comparative data / market survey data, of the advertiser’s product and other coffee brands in Karnataka, or through a third party validation.
3. GreenFizz Beverages Pvt. Ltd. (Fly Up Cola): The advertisement’s claims, “Loaded with natural goodness of real fruit juice” and “totally free of artificial sweeteners, which means it can be consumed by all”, were not substantiated with product label and product composition details and were considered to be misleading by exaggeration.
1. Shree Sanjeevan Wellness Solutions (Pure element Cucumber Green Tea Ultralight SPF 50): In the advertisement, the pack claim shown regarding Sun Protection Factor value “SPF 50”, was not conclusively established for the finished product. The claim is misleading by ambiguity and exaggeration.
1. Xiaomi Technology India Private Limited (MI A2): In the Xiaomi advertisement, the hold duration of disclaimers in the TVC “Free unlimited photo storage” was not for four seconds or more on the screen. The purpose of a disclaimer is to help a consumer to understand the claim and if an important claim is qualified, adequate time needs to be provided for a consumer to read, decipher and correlate the disclaimer. The claim contravened Clause 4 (X) of ASCI Guidelines for Disclaimers.
2. Indigo Paints Pvt. Ltd (Indigo Dirtproof & Waterproof Exterior Laminate): The advertisement’s claim of being “the first in India to introduce dust and water resistant properties” (voiceover claim, “India ka pehla paint jo dhool mittee aur paani dono ko roke” was not conclusively proven. The advertiser did not provide any test conducted on their finished product, or any comparative data of their product versus other products in the same category, to prove their product being India’s first to offer these dual benefits and hence the claim is misleading by exaggeration.
3. The Citizen Urban Co-operative Bank Limited: The advertisement’s claim, “No.1 Urban Co-op Bank of North Zone” was not substantiated with verifiable comparative data of the advertiser’s bank and other banks in North Zone, to prove that it is in leadership position (No.1), or through a third-party validation. The source for the claim was not indicated in the advertisement. The claim is misleading by exaggeration.
4. Calvin Home Appliances: The advertisement’s claim, “India’s No.1 Auto Clean & Maintenance Free Chimney”, was not substantiated with verifiable comparative data of the advertiser’s product and other kitchen chimneys in India, to prove that it is in leadership position (No.1), or through a third party validation. It was not clear how the Chimney was “maintenance free” and had “auto-clean” feature. The claim is misleading by exaggeration and implication.