Need for law to step in, says ASCI as Vimal, Kamla Pasand top advertising charts this IPL

While the violative ads on TV pertaining to the alco-bev category have significantly reduced, betting and gambling companies continue to circumvent government orders, the advertising watchdog observes

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Manisha Kapoor

Manisha Kapoor

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Delhi: As pan masala brands topped advertising charts this IPL season, the advertising watchdog on Tuesday flagged the violations of guidelines by those brands despite repeated reminders.

According to TAM’s latest data on IPL, Vishnu Packaging (Vimal Elaichi Pan Masala) and K P Pan Foods (Kamla Pasand Silver Coated Elaichi) were among the top advertisers during the first 31 matches of the T20 league.

While pan masala brands don’t directly advertise tobacco, they use surrogate products such as mouth fresheners to build brand recall of the main product line.

Commenting on the pan masala category featuring among the top advertisers during IPL 2024, Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary General of the Advertising Standard Council of India, said, “While we have issued letters to these brands in the past as well, it would be necessary for the law to step in cases of consistent violations.”

On the other hand, ASCI noted a significant reduction in the violative ads on TV pertaining to the alco-bev category during this IPL season.

During the IPL, offshore betting and illegal gambling apps become rampant in terms of advertising. The government has issued strict advisories to platforms to refrain from carrying their ads and has deemed them illegal. However, betting and gambling companies have found ways to circumvent government regulations and have proliferated on out-of-home (OOH) and digital channels, which are difficult to monitor.

“There is no direct regulator for out-of-home advertising, and therefore we see some violations occurring there. But it's only a matter of time before these are addressed,” commented Kapoor. 

She further said, “The government is expected to take stricter actions against them, as these companies are willful violators.”

Would ASCI introduce guidelines to curtail GenAI-led misleading and plagiarised ads?

With the increasing risks associated with generative AI in marketing, the advertising and marketing industry is calling for specific guidelines or rulebooks from self-governing bodies and industry forums within the sector.

In a previous story on BestMediaInfo.com, industry leaders expressed their views on ASCI addressing the issue and establishing guidelines for the usage of GenAI in marketing.

Commenting on this, Kapoor said nothing is in the pipeline currently.

“If the need arises in the future, we will look into creating specific guidelines around GenAI’s usage in marketing,” she added.

Kapoor commented, “As technology evolves, we will consider the need for specific guidelines. Currently, we are monitoring the situation, as the existing ASCI code addresses many challenges associated with the misuse of GenAI in advertising. If new issues arise that are not covered by our current guidelines, we will develop new guidelines around AI in ads.”

She further stated, “Whether AI is involved in an ad’s creation or not, if it’s misleading or plagiarised, it is a violation of  our code as it stands today.”

One challenge with GenAI is that marketers sometimes struggle to trace the original reference, leading to plagiarism.

“It is likely that as technology evolves, it will start to address issues such as rightful ownership and plagiarism. In the meanwhile, brands have to conduct their own due diligence and must be able to show evidence of this. While this is a significant challenge, ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Kapoor emphasised.

Ads depicting diversity and inclusivity drive business growth

Recently, ASCI, in partnership with UN Women and Kantar, unveiled a report titled "Mainstreaming Diversity and Inclusiveness in Indian Advertising." This report delves into the realm of diversity and inclusion (D&I) within Indian advertising, shedding light on evolving trends, challenges, and opportunities.

The report highlighted a steady increase in female representation in ads, with 45% of commercials featuring women alone, surpassing the global average of 25%. However, it was also noted that female characters are often stereotyped and depicted as fair and lean compared to men. Women are frequently portrayed in caregiving roles, while men are depicted as authoritative figures.

While acknowledging the improvement in gender representation, Kapoor emphasised the need to enhance the quality of the portrayal of women. “Brands that embrace inclusivity and diversity in their ads tend to perform better in terms of business outcomes. This should serve as a significant motivation for businesses across all sectors,” she commented.

Greenwashing in advertisements remains a significant concern

Earlier this year, ASCI issued guidelines to prevent false pro-environment claims, also known as greenwashing. These guidelines aim to ensure that the environmental claims made by advertisers are reliable, verifiable, and transparent.

In the last 3–4 months, ASCI has processed cases against at least 90 ads that failed to comply with the greenwashing guidelines, requiring these companies to modify their ads.

“Our scrutiny will continue, and we anticipate increased accountability in the future,” Kapoor stated.

She further said, “As consumers become more conscious, they are willing to pay a premium for green brands. If a company falsely claims to be environmentally friendly, it's deceptive. Therefore, advertisers must accurately represent their environmental credentials.”

Self-regulation and the law must go hand-in-hand

Kapoor highlighted that in over 90% of cases taken up by  ASCI, the advertisers voluntarily modify or withdraw the ad. However, for the remaining 10% that disregard the guidelines, legal repercussions are necessary.

The CCPA has recognised that any violation of ASCI's code of misleading advertisements may potentially contravene the Consumer Protection Act of 2019 and its related guidelines. 

Therefore, the CCPA has requested that ASCI forward any advertisement that is non-compliant with the ASCI Code and could potentially violate the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, along with its accompanying guidelines, to the CCPA for appropriate action.

Manisha Kapoor
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