- ASCI has launched an Endorser Due Diligence service to help endorsers avoid making misleading claims in advertisements.
- The service will provide guidance from highly-qualified specialists from over 20 disciplines and will help endorsers fulfill their obligations under the law.
Manisha Kapoor, Secretary General, ASCI tells us all there is to know about the service.
Celebrity endorsements have always had the power to captivate audiences and especially in India where people hero-worship
However, over the years, there have been many instances of brands coming up with misleading claims in their ads featuring celebrity endorsers. This has not only landed the endorsers in trouble, but has also made brands lose loyalty among their consumers.
The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 requires celebrities and brand endorsers to ensure that representations made by them in advertisements do not mislead consumers. ASCI’s service is an attempt towards minimizing the chance of such occurrences, to make the overall advertising ecosystem more accountable.
A paid advisory, the service will offer ASCI’s expertise in advertising assessment, including technical claims that are part of the advertisement. ASCI has established a panel of experts, from over 20 disciplines, ranging from advertising regulation and legal, ayurveda, microbiology, electronics, market research, nutrition, dentistry, product formulations, financial services, and so on.
The panel will assess the representations, statements, and claims in the advertisement from a consumer and technical perspective, examine the evidence in support of the claim where necessary, and thereby help the endorser conduct their due diligence. The advertisements can be sent to ASCI at any stage, including pre-production. This ensures that the endorser can do their independent due diligence before the advertisement is produced.
We spoke to Manisha Kapoor, Secretary General, ASCI to understand the new service and how celebrities stand to gain from it.
Q) You have just launched the Endorser Due Diligence service. How do endorsers stand to gain by availing the service?
We are a country that has a lot of endorsements, by famous celebrities and even other non-celebrity endorsers too. It's a way for advertisers to reach out and connect with their audiences using and leveraging the celebrity’s image and following. It is important for endorsers to be sure that the claims being made in the ads they appear in are not dishonest and are capable of substantiation because there is a moral obligation for them to not mislead audiences who trust them blindly. And now, there is a legal obligation too. The ASCI code has always required celebrities to do their due diligence when they appear in any ads. And now, the law has also put hefty fines on endorsers and these are pretty severe penalties. So we are offering a service to endorses so that they can do their due diligence and meet the legal obligation that they have. ASCI has been regulating as for many decades now and we have the expertise to look at ads from multiple viewpoints - from the viewpoint of creative freedom, of legal obligations and the technical correctness of claims. So we will put together a panel of people who will review an ad even before it's launched, (although it can come to us at any point of time). Even in the storyboard stage, we can look at the ad and point out if there are any issues that the celebrities must be aware of. We will advise celebrities so that they can speak with brands and have any unsubstantiated claims in the ad corrected.
Q) So in a way, celebrities can now outsource the work of doing due diligence to ASCI?
Celebrities can’t necessarily do it themselves. You can’t expect them to be domain or technical experts and therefore it is a service that is needed. The due diligence also needs a multi-lens view, you need to look at it from an advertising point of view, a legal point of view and a technical-correctness point of view. We have a panel that looks at all three disciplines to weigh in upon the ad and to review it and see whether it is an honest communication. This is a paid service which we’re offering in two different categories, one is a technical category that costs Rs 1,90,000 and a non-technical category that costs Rs 75,000.
Q) Since a lot of the responsibility also lies with the brand that they don't make certain unsubstantiated claims in their ads, how are you working with advertisers?
We already have a service for advertisers and agencies where they can come to us and we review the ad. In fact, we already have several advertisers who come to us for a similar service.
Q) Has the number of brands availing the service increased in the past few years?
Yes, we have worked with many advertisers on the service. In fact, globally, a much bigger part of the work a self-regulating organization is advising, consulting and helping people get it right. There are two parts to what we do, we can help people get it right, and we can catch them when they go wrong, and both are important. One supports the other and together they make for a more responsible ecosystem. And ASCI too it is important to start nudging people towards this culture of responsible advertising. For endorsers, there’s a separate legal liability where the law says that if you do the due diligence, the penalty will not be applied, however, even in such cases, the advertisers could still be taken to court. There are separate provisions for endorsers which is why we’re offering the service in the name of the endorser.
Q) How are you going to communicate about this offering?
Apart from the help from media, we have also been in conversation with different talent management agencies. In fact, we have collaborated with some of them to develop the product. We have been trying to be very collaborative in our approach in the last few years and have had a few rounds of discussions with talent management agencies who represent celebrities and endorsers to also understand their viewpoints on how to make the service more useful. So, they will hopefully communicate to their roster of talent that such a service is available.