In November last year, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) had started monitoring advertisements of a few alcohol brand extensions played during IPL on OTT platforms. The body had taken suo moto cognizance of 14 ads, which were run extensively on OTT platforms, and 12 have been restricted from advertising.
To further understand the issue, BestMediaInfo.com spoke to Manisha Kapoor, General Secretary, ASCI, who says they are working on stricter advertising guidelines for digital.
Asked how banning these now would help since the ROI or the objective intended by the brand would have been achieved, she said, “The action was taken in October and November. However, you’re right, some of the verdicts would have come maybe towards the end of IPL and some would have come after IPL if they were aired towards the end of IPL. The ASCI is a self-regulatory organisation. We want advertisers to be responsible. In the case of a breach, what happens is that they cannot use the same ads again. Even if they have aired them so far, they need to be modified to address the concerns ASCI raised and they cannot be aired in the same form. While they may have already aired the ad, they cannot use it again. There is definitely a production impact.”
“We want our members to comply with our ruling. The fact that these ads will no longer be in the public domain is the objective that is in the purview of ASCI, which has been achieved,” she added.
Kapoor clarified that the mandate for TV ads for alcohol brand extensions fall under the purview of CBFC (The Central Board of Film Certification).
“In December, CBFC had released their own guidelines about how they will look at surrogate advertisements. They adapted guidelines very similar to ASCI’s, which are the quantitative criteria for liquor advertising. That was a good step because beyond just how the ads look, we have a criterion on brand extensions, which is that they need to have a certain turnover or certain distribution. It was a good action by CBFC that they took the quantitative understanding of whether these are genuine brand extensions or not.”
Questions had been raised earlier also about such advertisements. Kapoor said in an ideal situation, such misleading advertisements should not be made. “We certainly hope that with the effort that they (CBFC) are taking on television, and the effort we are taking on non-television channels, certainly we do see a drop in such misleading advertising. The liquor companies must realise that they cannot get away with this and that beyond a point, it is something that will damage their reputation.”
According to Kapoor, banning or not banning any ad for a certain category is completely a legal issue that the Government should look at. “Within the mandate of law what can be misleading or harmful is something that ASCI takes cognizance of. Certain categories such as cigarettes are banned from advertising but brand extensions in some categories are allowed. We have to look at those categories and regulate. Outright banning is in the Government’s purview. We have put some minimum sales and distribution criteria. A lot of brands have been upheld because they have not been able to meet the criteria of basic presence and availability in the market,” she said.
Asked about indirect or direct ads already present in the digital space, she said the challenge on digital is that the lines between advertising and content have blurred. “We are working hard on some guidelines that you can expect over the next few weeks, which are precisely on the lines of digital and how this space can be better regulated,” Kapoor said.
She said ASCI works very closely with Government, especially with MIB and department of consumer affairs. We have worked with Ayush Ministries and FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) on various matters. We also encourages viewers to report ads they find misleading. “We have seen a few ads on television and escalated it to CBFC so that they can take an action."
“The government and ASCI are in constant dialogue about how we can improve guidelines or tighten our processes. A lot of ads ASCI takes up are suo moto. We have our own monitoring system called the National Advertising Monitoring Service, which screens ads proactively. Sometimes we take action before complaints from consumers,” she said.