Manisha Kapoor, CEO, ASCI, says that many real-money gaming companies aren't responsive to ad violation complaints.
The Advertising Standards Councils of India (ASCI) released its annual complaints report for 2022–23 on May 17. ASCI received a total of 8,951 complaints in the past year. It was able to process 7,928 complaints.
The report also found that ads by real-money gaming companies were the largest violators of ASCI's advertising norms in the past year. 15.1% of the total ad complaints processed by ASCI were for real-money gaming ads. It surpassed last year's most violative sector, education, which still contributes 13.8% of ad violations.
Skill-based real-money game FSL11 leads the total number of ad violations (338). Global cryptocurrency development company Developcoins trails FSL11, registering 320 violative ads in the past year.
Prominent names in the gaming industry, including Mobile Premier League (MPL), A23 Games, WinZO, and My11Circle, among others, have violated ASCI's guidelines. ASCI also found out that 92% of gaming advertisements reviewed by ASCI for FY 2022–23 did not adhere to guidelines.
The report highlights that 75 percent of violative ads were spotted on digital media, raising concerns about the online safety of consumers. ASCI has been increasing its monitoring capacity for digital media as the space is growing rapidly. GroupM recently released a report, "This Year Next Year 2023," which highlighted that as much as 56% of the entire ad spends in India will be spent on digital advertising.
Manisha Kapoor, CEO, ASCI, said that the council has been increasing its digital monitoring because the number of total creatives on digital platforms is far greater than creatives on other mediums. ASCI uses manual screening tests to scrutinise ads. An AI-based software called "TARA" also helps them further scrutinise ads.
"When a guideline violation is observed, we reach out to the advertiser and give them options to either respond to the complaint or take down the ad voluntarily. We have noticed that companies in the gaming sector aren't responsive to ad violation complaints," Kapoor shares.
Overall voluntary compliance with ASCI norms stood at 81%. The report found that companies in the real-money gaming sector are the least compliant with ASCI guidelines. Only 50% of ads were modified voluntarily after they have been called out.
Gaming ads on digital platforms constitute the majority of these violations. Kapoor says that the main guideline violations seen in the space can be attributed to a lack of responsible messaging in the ads.
"Consumers should be informed about the risks involved when they engage with real-money gaming platforms. Many ads focus on the monetary gains a consumer can make by engaging with the game. However, real-money gaming can lead to financial losses and can form habits over time."
Influencer violations stood at 26%, with 2,039 complaints being processed against them in FY23. Complaints against influencers constituted 29% of the total grievances one year ago.
However, it isn't good news. While influencer marketing has increased dramatically in size, violations of ASCI norms have also gone up. Most influencer violations were observed in the personal care category, followed by food and beverage.
The report also points to a sharp increase in the number of misleading ads featuring celebrities. ASCI processed 503 such ads, as opposed to 55 the previous year, a growth of 803%. In 97% of these ads, the celebrities failed to provide evidence of due diligence as mandated by the Consumer Protection Act.
MS Dhoni (10 violations), Bhuvan Bam (7 violations), Jim Shrabh (6 violations), and Viral Kohli (6 violations) had the most violations. All of these violations belong to the gaming category only.
"Celebrity-led endorsements have a relatively higher impact on consumers hence it is a serious issue. ASCI only asks for voluntary compliance, but a violation of CPA can lead to serious legal consequences for both celebrities and advertisers," Kapoor comments.