Anil Thakraney’s Hard Knocks: The damned misleading adverts

12 Oct,2011

So, finally the government has woken up on the issue. No less than the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has gotten into the act. The plan is to come up with policies that can control the malaise of misleading ads.

Well, to be honest this should have been done a long time ago. The Indian mediascape is lined with ads that make false/exaggerated promises. Health drinks that will make your child grow tall. A magic lotion that will sprout hair on that bald pate. Cars that give you outstanding mileage on Indian roads (wow!). The dubious list is long.

Yes, the ideal solution is self-regulation. But it will never work, there are just too many brand managers ready to play mischief for that extra market share point. Therefore unfortunate though it is, we do need some powerful and implementable regulation in force so that consumers don’t get fleeced.

However, and this is the crux of the problem: More than policies, we need hard punishment delivered to the offenders. Because penalties for misleading ads are very light in India, it becomes tempting to cheat. In the US, consumers can file for huge sums in damages if a brand has lied to them. And they do often get rewarded with the big bucks, and quite swiftly too. This ensures that brand managers think many times before misleading their consumers. In India, harassed grahaks have to do a lot of legwork at consumer courts; and even when the ruling is in their favour, the compensation is a pittance.

So let’s have the regulation in place by all means. But there needs to be severe penalties spelt out to discourage mischievous marketers.

 

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PS: Ads for cars have seen a sudden surge; almost every other commercial is for a gaadi these days. Guess sales are down because of massive hikes in price of petrol and diesel, and there’s a bit of panic in the auto companies. But instead of offering cash discounts and other usual freebies, why don’t they offer schemes like ‘Free 10 litres petrol every month for one year’. That’s actually just Rs 9,000, but it could strike a chord with a junta reeling under murderous fuel price hikes.

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