Creativity governed by rules would lead to the death of entertainment. Then daily soaps, movies and ads would be like power point presentations using excel sheets. Exaggeration and imagination are the cornerstones of creativity as well as story telling.
Can you imagine a story without a metaphor, vivid demonstration, fantasy or a hyperbolic demonstration of human greed? Be it Axe or Avatar, if the underlining moral were not be exaggerated, it would never sink in.
Having said the above now imagine a state without any legislature to govern, a society without any norms, a family without any principles. We all can imagine the mayhem.
What is moral and what is legal is an eternal debate, in spite of a legal definition, because we all would like to be governed by morals rather than legislature if given a choice. Why should this be any different for the brands that are behaving as human as real as our siblings? Why do 99.999 per cent of disputes is resolved without ever had to go to courts or lawyers?
As civilized beings we know when to cross the line and when not to. If we argue modern day brands are like humans who find a purposeful existence in people's life than why don't they behave themselves by not crossing the line? The state bestowed faith on the industry to conduct itself by allowing "Self governed code of conduct" and a body to monitor "Advertising Standard Council of India " and all we do as a community is to find legal ways to beat the system. If the law says you need to have a support to your claim, we produce one from an unheard research institute, as insiders we all know what game we have been playing.
Time has come to take a hard look at the old approach not because laws have changed because people have changed, world has changed. Today 90 per cent of the youth in the world are concerned about the survival of the planet, world peace, old parents and values. Never before transparency and honesty are valued as today. Leader are responding to this new order be it Obama or Anna Hazare or Nike or Apple. In fact I would go to an extent of saying leading brands have responded faster then the political leaders, to support my hypothesis let me barrow a research report which says 4 out of top 10 icons of the world are brands not people.
There is a selfish reason why brands must inculcate good values first and start to propagate them next. If the brands are governed by the principles of the values they abide by then there is very little chance of them crossing any ethical line to be punished by people or state.
Lets turn to the communicators or the creators. I believe they are two kinds of human beings in this world, those who care and those who don't. Those who do care are the sensitive lot and are aware of sensitive issues like; gender, values, ethics, children, safety, religion and minority communities, they generally rely on honesty and integrity of the communication to connect with people. They avoid using hyperbolic gimmicks to attract the attention. These are the guys who guide a brand to success thru life insights on the other hand people who do not care for others sentiments, do create regressive communication by resorting to cheep humor, emotional black mailing or even cooked up miss-leading facts.
Brands today are like celebrities their behavior in public is been watched by live cameras 24X7, the moment Shahrukh lit a cigarette in an a stadium, hundreds of tweets went live and even some legal suits. In this transparent world you cannot close your eyes and think world is not watching you. If you show a little kid "Chotu"serving tea in a ad, no matter how light heartedly you portray the situation, people will decode you as an endorser of child labor.
Creative people and agencies also have to be sensitive towards the societal realities. No rulebook says you cannot use a "pug" in an ad. But one need to be sensitive to the fact that the desire the ad can create in people to own and love a "pug" would be enormous and the damage it can potentially create to the species would also be enormous. If only creators were to give a little thought before depicting two boys in a family ad and the influence it can have on people to aspire for boys. When we realize a little thought could have let a girl child live we would understand our purpose in life.
Creators have an enormous power to write stories, which can influence people and their-in lays the responsibility to use the power in the right way. If the marketers and communicators ignore the responsibility and cross the line they may well face the consequence of rulebooks, which may well be written by the NGO/Govt., legal eagles.
Censorship or self-discipline, choice is ours today.