In the recently published, Advertising Standards Council of India Complaints Insights for 2021-22, a number of renowned brands have been called out for being non-compliant to the ASCI codes.
Ranging from e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, Nykaa, Myntra, Grofers and Urban Company; to cosmetic brands like L’Oréal India, Colorbar, Elle, Estee Lauder India, Faces Cosmetics India, Fae Beauty, Mamaearth, The Derma Company and Wow Skin Science; to FMCG brands like Monster Energy, Amul, Country Delight, McVitie’s, Boat and Noise, ASCI has named multiple non-compliant and violative advertisers in their list.
According to ASCI’s complaints snapshot, there has been a 25% increase in the number of complaints as compared to a 62% increase in the ads processed in FY 2021-22. After the launch of ASCI’s Influencer Guidelines last year, there has been a 186.5% increase in consumer complaints, the report stated.
Vivek Dhadha, an influencer, shared an Instagram story which was set in three parts in collaboration with Nykaa. Since the story was 40 seconds long, it was split into three parts and only the second and third part contained the disclosure of being an #AD, however the first story didn’t. As a result, when this case was taken under scrutiny, ASCI ruled it as misleading by omission and being exploitative of consumers’ lack of knowledge owing to the absence of disclaimer.
With digital mediums taking a front seat in the field of advertising, the monitoring of deceptive ads has become more difficult. According to the report, 48% of the screened ads published on digital mediums like Instagram (43%), YouTube (28%), websites (18%), Twitter (6%) and Facebook (3%) were found to be violative of ASCI codes. This was followed by Print, TV and other mediums which accounted for 47%, 3% and 2% respectively.
In another example, influencer Anirudh Ravichander took to Twitter to tag Amazon Music in his tweet while informing the public about the release of his new song which raised questions as to whether it was a paid content by Amazon Seller Services. Upon scrutiny, it was found out that since there was no disclosure as to whether it was a part of paid content or not, it was deemed misleading.
Further, in September 2021, renowned YouTuber Amit Badhana uploaded a comedy video promoting Shopsy App from Flipkart Internet. He also went on to explain the features and offers available on Shopsy. However, when the video came under scrutiny, it was found out that the disclosure of paid promotions was placed only in the initial 10-second slot of the video and didn’t run for the whole of the video. As a result, this video also fell under ASCI’s violative content and was upheld.
While education remained the most complained about the category in the violative category, it was personal care, food and beverages, virtual digital assets and gaming categories which saw a surge in complaints, and of these more than 84% of ads needed modification. While the education category accounted for over 33% of complaints, the healthcare sector amounted to 16% of the complaints received by ASCI.
One of the cases featuring Faces Cosmetics India was an ad on the e-commerce platform Nykaa, in which Faces Canada Comfy Matte Lip Color was claimed to be the very first lipstick with long stay and comfort. However, upon being approached by ASCI, the advertiser had to modify and rephrase the proposition as a 10-hour long stay without dryness, as per CCC recommendations of March 2022.
Ramkrishna Care Hospitals, which claimed to be Chhattisgarh's first comprehensive cancer care unit, also came under ASCI’s radar owing to their print ad published in Dainik Bhaskar, Raipur on February 1, 2022. It was marked under false and misleading advertisements by ASCI, as the Ramkrishna Hospital neither had a Radiation Department nor a Nuclear Medicine Department which are the key essentials for any comprehensive cancer care unit.
Out of the 5532 ads processed by ASCI between April 2021 and March 2022, 94% of ads required modifications in terms of the ASCI codes and 97.5% of ads were found to be violative of honest representations, according to the report.