IBF readies guidelines on surrogate advertising

By , agencyfaqs! | In | September 12, 2002
The IBF guidelines on surrogate advertising have been put into effect retrospectively, from September 1

The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), the apex body of broadcasting companies operating in India, has finalised a set of guidelines to put a check on television advertisements 'that can be deemed as surrogate advertising'. These guidelines have been finalised after the recent Government crackdown on channels barring them from airing surrogate advertisements relating to liquor and tobacco. Industry members have put the IBF guidelines on surrogate advertising into effect retrospectively, from September 1, after much deliberation.

The guidelines, prepared by an IBF sub-committee headed by Sandeep Goyal, group broadcasting CEO of Zee Telefilms, lists out what would constitute a surrogate ad and what represents a genuine brand promotion. To quote the IBF whitepaper available with agencyfaqs!, "For television commercials and spots the committee decided to endorse the ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of India) code and recommended that all IBF members follow it with regard to brand extension and surrogate advertising."

To begin with, the ASCI code for self-regulation in advertising bars advertisers from featuring personalities from the field of sports, music and cinema for products, which by law, either require a health warning in their advertising or cannot be purchased by minors. The ASCI code also states that advertisements of products whose advertising is barred or restricted by law or by the ASCI code must not circumvent such restrictions "by purporting to be advertisements for other products the advertising of which is not barred or restricted by law or by the ASCI code".
To plug any possible loopholes in the system, and in case there is a complaint against a particular advertisement, the IBF code enumerates the ways in which such ads can be judged to decide if they circumvent the code. The key checks as proposed by the IBF are:

Whether the unrestricted product being promoted by the advertisement is produced and distributed in reasonable quantities, in proportion to the scale of the advertising, the media used and the markets targeted.

Whether the advertisement under complaint has clues or cues to suggest to consumers that it is a direct or indirect ad for the product whose ad is barred by law or the ASCI code.

The committee also stated that any real products or services (non-alcoholic, non-tobacco) that have wide distribution in the market through established distribution networks, should not be denied speech even if the product or service shares a brand name with a liquor or tobacco product or company.

A top official at IBF indicated that the committee has decided that "all advertisers of brand extension products" will be asked to provide a certificate to the broadcasters stating that "the products were genuine and that they were being sold through established marketing networks in India in sufficient quantities to warrant advertising on television".

If these parameters are applied to the current crop of brand extension ads on television, then McDowell's No 1 Soda, Gilby's Green Label Water, Smirnoff Zone CD and cassettes obviously get the benefit of doubt. But Hayward's 5000 beer may be knocked out of the television screens because the dartboards that Hayward's advertises are not easily available across the country.

Senior sources at IBF also said that the industry body had sent out show-cause notices to a couple of channels regarding ads of certain alcohol and tobacco products. Most channels have reportedly complied with the Government panel's directive to the extent that the ads of a liquor company - that purportedly makes apple juice after drinking which anything can happen ('kuch bhi ho sakta hain') - have been taken off air.

Meanwhile, the IBF is also working at finalising a set of programming and content guidelines for channels. To this end, the self-regulatory practices and content code of various countries - especially those of American tobacco company Philip Morris - are being studied. This set of guideline is expected to be ready by the month-end. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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