Benita Chacko

Instagram promotions and influencers lead in digital ad violations: ASCI report

Crypto, personal care and fashion are key influencer violation categories.

Influencer violations contributed to 29% of the ads complained against at the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), revealed the leading ad body’s annual complaints report for 2021-22.

In June last year, ASCI had brought in influencer guidelines. The guidelines increased transparency, as it made it mandatory for influencers to label the promotional content that they post.

Manisha Kapoor
Manisha Kapoor

“95% of these violations are of non-disclosure, where the influencer has not made it clear to the consumers that they are viewing a paid content. The remaining are misleading ads,” shares Manisha Kapoor, CEO and secretary general, ASCI.


A total of 1,593 complaints were processed against influencers. The key categories included crypto (24.16%), personal care (23.2%) and fashion (16.3%). The other categories included e-commerce, F&B, services, mobile apps and finance.

Instagram promotions and influencers lead in digital ad violations: ASCI report

“Some influencers are unaware of these guidelines. As the awareness grows, brands become more particular, consumers also become aware and we take up more cases. We will see more changes. One year is a short time frame for a fundamental change to happen. But we are already seeing both brands and influencers becoming more cautious on these issues,” Kapoor adds.


The influencers are also lagging behind when it comes to compliance. Digital media has witnessed an overall 89% compliance. Non-influencer digital ads have 95.5% compliance, but influencer ads have only 86% compliance.

“In most cases, they do comply. The compliance is still reasonably high when you consider the fact that these guidelines are barely a year old,” Kapoor mentions.

Where are the objectionable ads published?

Instagram promotions and influencers lead in digital ad violations: ASCI report

As the digital advertising industry increases in market size year-on-year, it is expected to surpass television advertising by 2023. This is reflected in the ad complaints as well. 48% of the objectionable ads were published on digital mediums - Instagram being the highest contributor (43%), followed by YouTube (28%).

“As advertising increasingly shifts to digital platforms, the monitoring of advertisements for misleading content becomes more challenging. Ads are increasingly served and consumed on personal screens, making it difficult for regulators to truly understand their scale and impact. The volume of advertising creative units has exploded, and it is estimated that an average person is exposed to 6,000-10,000 ads per day,” the ASCI report states.

Kapoor says that it is a matter of evolution, as digital advertising is a new format and the advertisers are also new. On the other hand, TV and print advertising is far more established.

“It will take some time to settle in. I don't think it's a matter of concern. It is going pretty much in the right direction at a very encouraging pace,” she adds.

Gaurang Menon
Gaurang Menon

Gaurang Menon, CCO, BC Web Wise, says that the number of complaints on Instagram are higher as it is easier to access content there than on YouTube.

“The more the consumers flag concerns, the more the platforms will learn and add it in the system. 99% of the brands are fairly sensitive about their content. There is a per cent probably that tends to make mistakes. It could be due to a lack of awareness or anything else. But now, if something goes wrong, the very next minute action is taken,” he says.

Ramya Ramachandran
Ramya Ramachandran

Ramya Ramachandran, founder, Whoppl, says Instagram contributes more to the violations due to the nature of the platform and its contents.

“Instagram’s user base is increasing. It is a very aspirational platform today. Moreover, the users are exposed to so much content there. In fact, so much content is being pushed to the user. Through Reels, people are spending so much time on content there. Unlike YouTube, it is a short video format with snackable content. YouTube is for more long format content,” she says.

Objectionable ads in print and TV

Apart from digital, print medium had the next highest percentage of objectionable ads (47%). Meanwhile, television was a minuscule 3%.

“This year, we have also accelerated our own monitoring of digital medium. We are also proactively taking steps to monitor it. TV advertising is also huge, but the systems are well established. So, there aren’t as many violations,” Kapoor explains.

The high print percentage can also be attributed to ASCI’s monitoring. In 2021-22, it tracked around 600-700 publications, many of them being regional publications.

“These regional publications have fragmented advertisers. They can be local or small businesses. The nature of advertisers is different. Overall, the number of advertisers in that category is very high,” Kapoor adds.

In a recent case, ASCI pulled up deodorant brand Layer’r Shot for violating its guidelines. The ad contained sexually inappropriate themes. On receiving a complaint, ASCI suspended the ad.

afaqs! reached out to Instagram for its comments. However, it has not responded yet.

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