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ASCI upholds complaint; Kent withdraws virus-kill RO ad

Kent has been asked to withdraw an ad for its water purifier, which claims to kill the Coronavirus.

Since the COVID-induced lockdown began, many companies have claimed that they can help fight the Coronavirus in their own capacity. Kent RO Systems is the latest company to come under the scanner of the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI).

There was a complaint registered against the company for claiming that its water purifier can kill the Coronavirus. The ad has been taken down since then.

A host of unlikely products have claimed to help kill the virus. There have been instances of antiviral masks, plywood that repels bacteria, and now, even glasses that resist bacteria landing on its surface.

Recently, ASCI announced a separate category for COVID-related advertising. Manisha Kapoor, general secretary, ASCI, said: “We want advertisers to be more mindful in creating advertisements and making claims related to COVID-19. Given the pandemic and the extended lockdowns, people are obviously concerned. Manufacturers and brands have also responded to consumer needs arising out of the pandemic.”

Kapoor added that, however, ASCI wants these products and advertisements to stick to claims and promises that are well backed by adequate substantiation. The advisory to advertisers is meant to safeguard consumers as well as ensure the highest standards for advertising.

“They have been developed after consultations with advertisers, as well as with technical experts in different fields, such as biochemistry, Ayurveda, food and nutrition, etc. The pandemic is a difficult time for everyone, even brands, but it can not be a platform to mislead consumers,” says Kapoor.

ASCI has also been strict about the kind of ads that have been airing during (ad) breaks in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL). ASCI been intensely monitoring possible surrogate advertising during the IPL.

ASCI has put in place daily updates on the monitoring of alcohol brand extension advertising, instead of its regular weekly feeds, for immediate processing of complaints. Complaints against eight ads for whisky, beer and white liquor brands have been registered in the past month.

The ads picked up range from those selling music CDs to packaged water, non-alcoholic beverages and merchandising. The key to ASCI's investigation is determining what are surrogates for liquor and what constitutes genuine brand extensions.