Yash Bhatia and Benita Chacko

Will self-declaration guidelines impact brands' T20 ad spends?

With the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup underway, advertisers are uncertain about their ad plans for the next three weeks.

As per a Supreme Court order advertisers and advertising agencies will need to submit a self-declaration certificate (SDC) for publishing or broadcasting any advertisement from today (June 18, 2024). 

The industry has raised concerns about the viability of this mechanism. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) will submit the stakeholders’ response to the Supreme Court on July 9. The law applies to new advertisements only and ads already published may continue as they are.

With the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup going on currently, advertisers remain confused about their advertising plans for the next three weeks.

The Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) has advised its members to withhold the release of any new ads until July 9 when the matter will be heard in the Court.

A senior advertiser says, “It does not affect our marketing plans. We are spending big on the World Cup. We have released our ads for it and have no plans to release anything new. July 9 is not too far away. We will wait to see what decision is taken then.”

A marketer of an FMCG brand says brands should avoid releasing new ads or get self-declaration. For the World Cup, the only problem that the new-age brands could face is if Team India qualifies for the final, then they won’t be able to release topical ads around it.

They also note that the media company’s packages are structured to allow brands to choose India matches or non-India matches, so the impact on the media business will be minimal.

Documents required before submission of the Self-Declaration Certificate
Documents required before submission of the Self-Declaration Certificate

An industry insider says the risk for Disney Star, which is broadcasting and streaming the World Cup, is low since most brands have released their ads. Moreover, he feels it is not a cumbersome process to apply for a certificate. It just adds an additional layer which didn't need to be considered before.

"I don't think it's very difficult. It's just a matter of applying for the certificate. It's really a five-minute job. It's just one more step in the process, which most will likely comply with. If you're a well-known brand with a history of working with agencies and clearances, and you prioritise brand safety, there shouldn't be a challenge," he says.

However, he asks why this needed to be implemented in such a hurry.

"I don't understand why this has been done so quickly. I feel there should have been more time given," he says.

Details of advertisement to be filled in the form
Details of advertisement to be filled in the form

From a creative standpoint, Yorick Pinto, senior creative director, social and content, BC Web Wise, believes that it’s a great move for bringing accountability to advertising, but the guidelines are not clear.

According to him, this process can create a lot of delays in the overall process.

“I believe self-declaration should be mandatory for placing ads in mediums like print, television, and OOH. But not for social media,” he mentions.

As a brand uploads multiple posts every month on social media, getting self-declaration on every post can be a burdensome task.

He further adds that the self-declaration of ads talking about products should be mandatory, but for topical ads, it should not be a mandate.

Pinto mentions that currently rather than discussing creative ideas with brands, they are discussing the policy with brand marketers. 

“Brands are confused with the policy, and are coming to us for a solution. They are looking at what other brands are doing. Currently, our recommendation to them is to provide self-declaration for every creative that is going public,” he says.

“The situation is, we’re talking more about this with brands, rather than talking about creative ideas with them,” he says.

Another creative director from a digital creative agency says, there’s a tug-of-war between brands and agencies with each other as to who will file the self-declaration and take responsibility for it. 

“I believe, as a creative professional our job is to make good ads, based on the USPs provided to us during the brief,” he highlights.

According to them, their job is to be accountable for the communication and not the product features.

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