PCI clarifies self-declaration process for print ads: Streamlines steps, exemptions explained

Confidentiality, costs, and speed bumps for Indian advertising industry

BestMediaInfo Bureau
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Advertisers, PCI, SDC mandate, Supreme Court
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New Delhi: The Indian advertising industry is voicing anxieties about potential breaches of client confidentiality and operational disruptions, particularly in the fast-paced realm of digital advertising. The PCI clarifies that ideally, the advertiser should share the certificate directly. Alternatively, with proper authorisation, the advertising agency can handle this task. 

Publications, like BCCL, are only responsible for verifying the existence of a valid self-declaration certificate. The certificates themselves are generated through a dedicated portal on the Press Council of India website, accessible to authorised representatives of advertisers or advertising agencies.

The mandate requires advertisers to obtain self-declaration certificates for each advertisement before publication, ensuring compliance with Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) guidelines. The Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) has expressed concerns that the process could inadvertently expose confidential client information shared during campaign development.

Former President of INS, Mohit Jain, Executive Director and Board member of the Times of India Group (BCCL), highlighted the potential conflict between speed and thoroughness. As he spoke to BestMediaInfo on the SDC mandate, he opined, “the media's inherent strength – its ability to deliver information swiftly and speedily – can also be its vulnerability in this context.” 

While advertisers are voicing their stance on SDC of being not a thought-out solution, they are even more concerned about extra costs in terms of adhering to the compliance within a short tenure and also in terms of the later penalties if they fail to do so. Especially for the traditional advertisers and/or the small-scale bodies, the lack of resources will cause a huge problem. 

“Traditional print media allows for a more rigorous verification process due to longer lead times. Digital advertising, however, prioritises speed, which might necessitate streamlining some verification steps,” said Jain. This potential compromise on scrutiny is a major concern for the industry, especially with digital advertising often operating on tight deadlines (e.g. programmatic advertising). The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has even approached the Supreme Court, seeking a review of the mandate due to the operational challenges it presents.

The Press Council of India (PCI) has outlined the specific implementation process for print advertisements. To ensure compliance, self-declaration certificates must be submitted electronically alongside the booking order and advertising materials. Notably, government ads, tenders, public notices, and obituaries are exempt from this requirement.

Classified advertisements generally don't require certificates, but those directly promoting consumer products or services do. Additionally, any ad explicitly mentioning benefits, sales, or product/service offerings necessitates a certificate. It's important to note that a fresh certificate is needed for each ad date, while multi-city editions with identical brand content can use a single certificate. However, separate certificates are required for different language versions of the same ad.

Despite the anxieties, Jain emphasised the industry's commitment to upholding ethical advertising practices. “All stakeholders, from agencies to publishers, are dedicated to adhering to ASCI guidelines,” he affirmed. “However, the current mandate requires a more nuanced approach that acknowledges the unique operational realities of different advertising formats.”

The Supreme Court is yet to have a hearing on this matter, scheduled for July 9, while the SDC mandate comes into effect from today i.e., June 18.

SDC mandate advertisers PCI Supreme Court