scorecardOnline ads most problematic, influencers too caught breaching guidelines
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Online ads most problematic, influencers too caught breaching guidelines

Online ads most problematic, influencers too caught breaching guidelines
IndiaIndia4 min read
  • ACSI has received around 4,500 complaints between April and September about violations by Indian ads.
  • The healthcare sector emerged as a significant contributor to non-compliant ads.
  • Gaming industry outranked education as the most violative sector, says ASCI.
Complaints about various violations of Indian advertisements surged by 34% in April to September of 2023 as compared to the year before, says Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). The non-profit organisation received 4,491 complaints in the six-month period.

Correspondingly, ASCI reviewed 27% more advertisements, tallying 3501 ads.

Among the processed ads, 564 (16%) were identified as potential legal violations, signifying a 22% increase from previous years. Encouragingly, 35% of ads faced no contestation and were swiftly withdrawn or amended.

However 47% of ads were deemed violative of the ASCI Code, necessitating immediate withdrawal or modification. Dismissal of complaints remained minimal, accounting for a mere 2%.

Platform predicament: Digital dominance Digital media took precedence, contributing to a significant 79% of reported violations. Print media and television constituted 17% and 3% of the infringements, respectively, while other mediums comprised 2%.

Consumer complaints made up a substantial 21.3% of the total processed complaints, indicating active public engagement in upholding advertising standards. Impressively, ASCI proactively initiated 75.4% of the complaints, highlighting the organisation's proactive approach in identifying potential violations.

Digital ads and influencers

The prevalence of problematic advertisements was evident in the digital realm, with 79% of such ads originating from various online platforms. This stark statistic underscores the inherent complexities and challenges associated with effectively monitoring and regulating advertising practices in the digital landscape.

Within the digital sphere, influencers were linked to 22% of the flagged ads, signifying their significant impact on advertising trends. Surprisingly, 99.4% of these influencer-associated ads were found to breach established guidelines.

Says Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary-General, ASCI, “Our constant vigilance of the online space helps call out the advertisements and brands that violate the ASCI code requiring ads to be truthful, decent and safe. We hope that the various sectors recognise the breaches and commit to more responsible advertising.”

The report noted an 803% increase in ads with celebrities and 1 in 4 ads had influencer violations. Celebrities like MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Bhuvan Bam, Sara Ali Khan, and influencers such as Mukul Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, and Tapsee Pannu were listed for non-compliance.

ASCI has intensified its regulatory measures, ensuring that 98% of processed ads required some level of modification to align with established advertising standards.

Despite this concerning statistics, there was an encouraging rise in compliance with ASCI's recommendations, reaching an impressive 92%. This shift indicates an increased inclination among influencers towards aligning with advertising standards laid down by ASCI.

Not in good health

The healthcare sector emerged as a significant contributor to non-compliant ads, constituting 21% of the processed advertisements. The sector's predominance in non-compliance stemmed primarily from the proliferation of drug and medicine advertisements observed predominantly on digital platforms.

ASCI also observed a substantial increase in advertisements violating the Drug and Magic Remedies Act of 1954. Consequently, ASCI issued notifications urging the withdrawal or modification of these non-compliant ads.

Over a six-month period, ASCI referred 565 ads to the Ministry of AYUSH, marking a considerable surge compared to previous figures. This escalation underscores the necessity for stricter adherence to advertising regulations, especially concerning sensitive sectors like healthcare and products falling under specific legislative acts.

Dangerous game

Real money gaming topped the non-compliance list in ASCI’s 2022-23 report released in May 2023. Over 50% of ads needing changes didn't align with consumer complaints council suggestions. Despite ASCI's guidelines in December 2021 for these games, 92% of ads lacked crucial risk disclaimers.

Gaming outranked education as the most violative sector, followed by healthcare, personal care, and cryptocurrency.