Yash Bhatia

Will MIB's self-declaration clarification bring relief for the industry?

The new order requires advertisers and ad agencies in the food and health sectors to upload self-declaration certificates. Industry experts share their opinions.

On June 4, 2024, the Supreme Court of India's directive mandating 'self-declaration' certificates for all new ads left the industry in a state of confusion. Media houses, creative agencies, digital agencies, and brands were all scrambling to understand the applicability of this law.

However, after almost a month on July 3, 2024, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) provided much-needed clarity by issuing a fresh advisory.

The new advisory specifies that only advertisers and ad agencies related to the food and health sector are required to upload an annual self-declaration certificate on the designated platforms. The Broadcast Seva Portal is to be used for TV and radio advertisements, while the portal of the Press Council of India is designated for print media and internet advertisements.

This advisory follows the Supreme Court order dated May 7, 2024, and supersedes the previous advisories issued on June 3, 2024, and June 5, 2024. 

Advertisers and ad agencies in the food and health sectors must now upload their annual self-declaration certificates on the appropriate platforms and provide proof of this to media stakeholders such as TV channels, newspapers, and internet advertising entities.

The MIB's advisory also emphasises that it is the responsibility of advertisers and ad agencies to ensure that all advertisements comply with applicable Indian laws, rules, and regulations.

With this clarification from the MIB, can the industry now breathe a sigh of relief?

(L-R) Atin Roy, Dr. Ravinder Varma and Manas Gulati
(L-R) Atin Roy, Dr. Ravinder Varma and Manas Gulati

Atin Roy, senior vice president, Ogilvy  

If you look at things through the lens of need hierarchy, food, health, and shelter are the basic needs of a human being. The regulations proposed by the apex court for the food and health sectors are a step in the right direction to ensure brands' accountability concerning their messages and product claims, as well as protecting consumers. 

However, I hope this will be extended to other important sectors like real estate as well.

The declaration aims to act as a deterrent for certain brands and companies, keeping them away from reckless, irresponsible marketing and misleading, unsubstantiated claims. If, even after submitting a self-declaration, misleading messaging appears, the onus will now lie squarely on the brand, and it can be brought to task, thus ensuring that brands carefully consider and weigh their messages and claims before putting them on air.

There is a lot of confusion among most clients about how the declaration is to be submitted. Perhaps a free online crash course proposed by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry would be helpful.

Moreover, the definition of food and health needs to be explained to the brands and companies for better compliance.

Dr. Ravinder Varma, brand manager, RiteBite Max Protein

This approach ensures that important areas impacting public health receive the necessary attention. By starting with the food and health sectors, we can learn valuable lessons and develop best practices. 

These insights will help us extend these protocols to other categories in the future. Ultimately, this will contribute to a more comprehensive regulatory framework, promoting consumer protection and industry accountability.

Implementing the self-declaration certificate mandate presents challenges such as ensuring stakeholder understanding, managing increased documentation, and maintaining campaign efficiency. Streamlining internal review processes and using digital tools will help reduce the administrative burden. 

Additionally, collaborating with industry bodies to share best practices and advocate for more flexible approaches will further ease the transition.

Manas Gulati, co-founder and CEO, #ARM worldwide

Limiting the self-declaration requirement to only the food and health sectors is a practical and strategic decision to initiate significant regulatory changes. It will ensure stricter compliance and monitoring where it matters most, potentially reducing risks to public health and safety.

More honest and informative messaging will enable end consumers to make informed decisions about their health and nutrition. Moreover, in the long term, these raised standards will likely encourage companies to enhance quality and safety, benefiting the industry.

Organising comprehensive training sessions for advertisers and agencies and establishing dedicated compliance teams will further streamline the process. Regular feedback loops with regulatory bodies already in place will be crucial for promptly resolving doubts, questions, and inputs from industry stakeholders, ensuring a smooth implementation.

Increased regulatory scrutiny does not necessarily restrict creative freedom. Understanding the regulations and integrating them into the creative process from the outset allows advertisers to develop compelling campaigns that are legally sound, promoting trust and effectiveness without suppressing creativity.

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