afaqs!

ASCI's axe on ads

By Savia Jane Pinto , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | October 22, 2009
On a bi-annual basis, ASCI reviews ads that have come under the scanner and assesses them according to the pre-set code

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) issues a list of complaints that have been upheld by the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) twice in a year.

The complaint may be made by intra-industry members, members of the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) or by an organisation representing consumers. The complaint is then assessed by ASCI and necessary action is taken. The verdict taken may result in modification, suspension or discontinuation of the ad. In some cases, the ad may even be withdrawn.

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In the first six months of 2009, about five ads have been discontinued following verdicts from ASCI.

Make My Trip, the online travel company, featured a commercial towards the end of 2008 for its festive-led campaign. The ad was aired in the US. It had a collection of many shots, where various moments of different Indian festivals had been captured. The ad ended on a note encouraging the viewer to travel back home to celebrate the festivities. However, the first frame of the ad, which showed an old couple dressed in their festive best answering a call on a mobile phone, was the exact same shot that was part of an Express Money ad aired in June 2008.

The complaint was from within the industry. According to Chapter IV, Point 3 of the code, 'Advertisements shall not be similar to any other advertiser's earlier run advertisements in general layout, copy, slogans, visual presentations, music or sound effects so as to suggest plagiarism', shares Alan Collaco, secretary general, ASCI. The advertiser on its behalf duly withdrew the ad, stating that there was a slip-up on the ad agency's part, and the owner of the TV commercial, Express Money, has acknowledged a no-objection.

The other TVC that had to be withdrawn was an ad by Coca-Cola, created by McCann Erickson in November 2008. The ad shows a jungle boy who, on seeing fire crackers light up in the air from his jungle abode, is curious and gets onto a Coca-Cola truck that leads him to a household. On venturing in, the children of the house coax the boy with a bottle of the cola and soon, he is seen enjoying the fireworks. The boy is shown handling the sparklers (fuljhadi) and playing with the other kids.

A complaint for this ad was made from within ASCI as it was felt that showing the jungle boy handle the fire crackers in a careless manner may provoke or tempt children to do something similar. Chapter III, Point 3 of the code states, 'Advertisements shall not, without justifiable reason, show or refer to dangerous practices or manifest a disregard for safety or encourage negligence.' In response, the advertiser clarified that the jungle boy was above the age of 12 and while he handled the sparklers, he was supervised by adults. However, the advertiser abided by the decision taken by ASCI and withdrew the ad promptly.

Videocon's print ad, which appeared in Business India this year, claimed that the washing machine was eco-friendly and could conserve water and save energy. However, after a complaint from an ASCI member, the advertiser was unable to substantiate the claims and as per Chapter I Point 1, 'Advertisements must be truthful. All descriptions, claims and comparisons which relate to matters of objectively ascertainable fact should be capable of substantiation. Advertisers and advertising agencies are required to produce such substantiation as and when called upon to do so by the ASCI.' Hence, the ad was withdrawn.

The last two print ads that were withdrawn are cases of surrogate advertising. Chapter III Point 6 of the code states, 'Advertisements for products whose advertising is prohibited or restricted by law or by this code must not circumvent such restrictions by purporting to be advertisements for other products the advertising of which is not prohibited by law or by this code. In judging whether or not any particular advertisement is an indirect advertisement for product whose advertising is restricted or prohibited, due attention shall be paid'.

Bacardi featured an ad in a magazine for which the copy suggested an alcoholic mix, though the ad was said to be for Bacardi music CDs. The ad was withdrawn despite claims from the advertiser that stated otherwise.

In the second case, Diageo India carried a page of mocktail recipes for its Smirnoff brand of vodka in India Today magazine. The advertiser argued that the piece was a story run by the magazine and not an advertisement done by Diageo. However, the verdict stayed and the ad was withdrawn.