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Enhancing monitoring around GenAI, dark patterns, crypto, green claims: ASCI chairman Saugata Gupta

In his first interaction with media after assuming the role of Chairman at the Advertising Standards Council of India in September 2023, Saugata Gupta spoke to BestMediaInfo.com about his vision for the self-regulatory body in 2024, the ongoing challenges posed in the ad world and how ASCI is strategising to deal with it and much more

Saugata Gupta

In an exclusive interaction with BestMediaInfo.com, Saugata Gupta, who was recently (in September, this year) appointed as the Chairman of ASCI, stated that his primary aim is to fortify ASCI’s role as a self-regulatory authority, with a strong ability to respond to the challenges and opportunities presented by the contemporary advertising landscape.

He then went on to point out that some of the new areas of regulatory concern, especially related to digital advertising, will be an area of focus for the self-regulatory body during his tenure.

“ASCI has made some very important and timely guidelines in the past three years and we will continue to monitor this closely. Our draft green claims guidelines are another example of this,” he said.

Gupta has been serving as the MD and CEO of FMCG major Marico for the past two decades.

During the interaction, he also highlighted that while the ASCI Academy, designed to educate and train industry professionals, influencers, and students about ethical advertising practices is another big initiative that will take shape over the next few months, the self-regulatory body of advertising in India is off to a good start with several programs which will be unveiled in the coming months.

“A proactive and collaborative approach is central to ASCI’s way of working and we will continue to build on that,” he opined.

Commenting on some of the challenges which in his viewpoint need to be addressed on a priority basis, he emphasised that what has happened today with the rapid proliferation of digital advertising, influencer marketing, and direct-to-consumer brands is that new avenues for ethical concerns have spurted and that along with emerging sectors, such as crypto, AI, gaming, EdTech, fintech, sustainability, etc. where ASCI has proactively issued guidelines or conducted studies, not only involve navigation but in turn demand ongoing vigilance.

“In the swiftly evolving advertising landscape dominated by GenAI and digital platforms, ASCI takes a pivotal role in shaping ethical practices. Our roadmap includes enhancing monitoring efforts, addressing concerns around navigating emerging sectors like Generative AI, dark patterns, crypto, green claims and increasing our preventative footprint in the industry. With digital advertising, some of these concerns are also global. Therefore, we also learn from and contribute significantly to efforts not just in India but at the global level via The International Council for Advertising Self-regulation (ICAS) where ASCI is part of the executive board,” he said.

Adding to this, he also mentioned that during his tenure at ASCI, he aims to strengthen ASCI as a resilient, efficient, and sustainable self-regulatory entity, dedicated to delivering responsible advertising to consumers and guiding the industry towards ethical practices.

“In navigating the evolving landscape of technology-driven advertising, ASCI's strategy involves staying ahead through proactive monitoring of digital platforms and staying alert to new trends and concerns around ethical and regulatory issues around advertising. That being said, collaborating with industry stakeholders is paramount, and we aim to strengthen partnerships with media, platforms, advertisers, agencies, as well as consumer cohorts and civil society organisations,” he said.

In his viewpoint, this approach extends to initiatives such as the ASCI Academy and fostering a collective commitment to ethical advertising practices. But given that increased consumer awareness is a priority, ASCI also plans to implement targeted campaigns and educational programs to empower consumers in recognising and promoting ethical advertising practices in the digital age which in turn will aid in building a more responsible advertising ecosystem.

Upon being questioned as to how he aims to change the perception of the watchdog being a "toothless tiger" in the industry, he replied that with the body of work that ASCI has undertaken over the last couple of years and with the launch of the ASCI Academy, there has been a continuous shift in perceptions, highlighting its growing efficacy and significant impact within the industry and that coupled with an outstanding compliance rate surpassing 90% reflects the industry's widespread recognition and commitment to adhering to our ethical recommendations which also affirms the effectiveness of self-regulation in advertising.

Furthermore, he also mentioned that what ASCI also does is work closely with various ministries, especially Ministry of Consumer Affairs and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, in shaping legally tenable guidelines and rules for various forms of advertising and influencer outreach.

That being said, ASCI data is frequently referenced in parliamentary debates and that along with ASCI’s consistent involvement in advertising policy consultations demonstrates ASCI’s status as a successful example of self-regulation.

“ASCI remains resolutely committed to fostering self-regulation within the advertising sector, encouraging voluntary adherence to ethical standards. Our stakeholders hold ASCI’s efforts in high esteem. With the emergence of digital advertising, regulatory challenges keep emerging. By staying abreast of the latest trends and advancements, ASCI’s guidelines serve as a robust framework that could potentially shape future regulations,” he opined.

Additionally, he also stated that the agility and expertise exhibited by ASCI are both valued by regulatory bodies today which not only helps foster close collaboration on existing and forthcoming regulations but also helps in monitoring because the self-regulatory body has already set in place monitoring systems which diligently oversee emerging sectors as well as those ranking high in reported violations.

“The aim extends beyond regulation; we aim to educate and cultivate a culture of shared responsibility within the industry,” he said on a concluding note.


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