afaqs! news bureau

Here’s ASCI’s response to the Sebamed-HUL saga

The Advertising Standards Council of India says that it hasn’t received any complaints so far.

The New Year’s first big advertising campaign was nothing short of a soap saga. Sebamed, a German skincare company, named Hindustan Unilever (HUL) soap brands Lux, Dove and Pears, and Wipro’s Santoor. Sebamed claimed it was better than them because its pH level was lower, 5.5 to be exact, and, hence, its soap is the best for sensitive skin.

Comparative advertising? Check. Naming other brands in the segment? Check. Tons of press coverage and organic conversations online? Check. HUL going to the court? Check.

As of now, the Bombay High Court has instructed Sebamed to suspend its advertising, which it has agreed to by pulling its ads. Here’s Sebamed’s official response to the court order.

Amid all this, some people online, especially on Twitter, wondered about the response of The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) to this particular campaign. ASCI is a self-regulatory voluntary organisation of India’s advertising industry.

Manisha Kapoor, secretary-general, ASCI, said: “On the said case, ASCI has not received any complaints so far. As per ASCI's guidelines, we do permit comparative advertisements, including those where the product is named. This is in the spirit of promoting healthy competition and consumer choice.”

“While all may be fair in love and war when it comes to advertising wars, ASCI believes it is important that comparative advertisements adhere to certain principles of fairness and honesty. They must not choose points of comparison that confer an artificial advantage.”

“It is also important that the comparisons are factual and capable of objective substantiation. Advertisements must refrain from denigrating, attacking or discrediting other brands or advertisers even as they attempt to dominate consumer minds and wallets.”

“ASCI does take suo motu notice of misleading advertisements. In fact, last year (2020), we processed over 3,000 misleading ads on a suo motu basis. In this particular case, HUL immediately approached the judicial system for a resolution, and ASCI does not handle matters which are already under the legal jurisdiction as a policy,” Kapoor added.