As per the guidelines, ads for charitable causes must avoid using images or themes that cause unjustified distress to consumers.
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has introduced guidelines for advertisements for charitable causes.
In recent years, charities have been active advertisers, particularly on digital media, and especially for the purpose of seeking funds and crowdfunding on behalf of their beneficiaries who may not have an active social network to reach and tap donors. Charities, including crowdfunding platforms, provide this reach through sponsored ads and organic posts, which tap potential donors.
However, there have been some concerns about ads that create donor distress through the use of images that may be too graphic. While the intent of such posts is undoubtedly to nudge donors to contribute, such posts may cause undue distress to ordinary consumers who may be surfing through their news feeds. In addition, with crowdsourcing platforms, consumers may not know what amount, from their donation, goes to the beneficiary and what may be kept by the platforms for their administrative fees or charges.
The new guidelines reinforce the ASCI code; Chapter 1 requires ads to be honest and truthful and Chapter 2 requires them not to cause grave or widespread harm or offence.
To be compliant, ads related to charitable causes must adhere to the following guidelines:
An advertisement for a charitable organisation or crowdsourcing platform for charity shall not overtly or pointedly suggest that anyone who doesn't support the charity fails in their responsibility or should feel ashamed.
Advertisements must not disrespect the dignity of those on whose behalf an appeal is being made, by any means, including showing graphic images of victims in distress, particularly children and minors. An advertiser must be able to produce evidence of express consent for the use of images of beneficiaries if asked to do so.
In digital advertising, any image that could cause unjustified distress to an ordinary consumer must be blurred and made visible only to those interested in knowing more.
When an appeal is made for a specific case or beneficiary, the ad must disclose if the funds could potentially be used for other purposes or other beneficiaries. Ads must not mislead consumers about where or to whom their donations are going.
If a crowdsourcing platform collects a percentage or fee for managing or raising donor funds, it must be made clear what such amounts are in the advertisement itself.
Talking about the new guidelines, Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary General, ASCI, said: ASCI recognises that charities can have a challenging job explaining the nature of the important, and often sensitive work they do, and raise funds for beneficiaries in need. However, they must take care not to overstep the mark by misleading consumers or causing unjustified distress to those who may be merely surfing online. The guidelines strike a balance between allowing charities to do their important work, and at the same time, be fair to consumers who are viewers of such advertisements