ASCI is not a toothless tiger: Bharat Patel

18 Apr,2012


Bharat Patel

By Robin Thomas


The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has joined hands with TAM Media Research to introduce National Advertising Monitoring Service (NAMS) which will come into effect from May 1. The aim of the monitoring service is to reduce the number of misleading and unsubstantiated advertisements (see accompanying story: ‘Paradigm shift for self-regulation’). AdEx India, a division of TAM, will monitor around 350 televisions and 10,860 newspaper advertisements released every week.


In conversation with MxMIndia, Mr Bharat Patel, former chairman of Procter & Gamble and Board Consultative Committee Member and also former Chairman of ASCI spoke about NAMS and its impact on consumer complaints. And that ASCI is not a toothless tiger!


NAMS has been introduced shortly after the government asked ASCI to fast-track the decision-making process…

Absolutely. In order to speed up decision-making, the CCC (Consumer Complaints Council) decided to meet twice every month from the earlier once a month meeting. This decision was made following the advice of Ms Ambika Soni, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting. We are open to receiving suggestions, and when the Ministry of Consumer Affairs pointed out that something needs to be done on the increasing number of consumer complaints, we decided to do monitoring and thus the introduction of National Advertising Monitoring Service (NAMS).


And the discussion to set up NAMS?

The discussion started over three or four months ago. We were in talks with a lot of people, including consumer organizations and we found that TAM has the best availability and resources for the service.


There were reports of the government planning to launch its own version of advertising monitoring services to reduce consumer complaints…

I don’t think it’s true because the Additional Secretary at the Ministry of Consumer Affairs denied any such move. So we don’t know how true this is but, the Ministry denied it at this stage. The I&B Ministry has been very supportive of the ASCI. They have, in fact, mentioned in their codes that any advertisement that violates the code of ASCI will not be allowed. The Consumer Affairs Ministry is also supportive of self regulation.


What is your reaction on ASCI being called a toothless tiger? Will NAMS give ASCI more teeth in dealing with ads that violate ASCI code?

Calling ASCI a toothless tiger is absolutely wrong.  Cable TV Act Rules state that no ad which violates ASCI’s code can be released on TV.  Nowhere in the world has such recognition of an advertising Self Regulatory Organisation (SRO) been granted by the Government. All the ads, against which a complaint is upheld by CCC, are modified or withdrawn voluntarily in writing by advertiser. In fact, the I&B Ministry sends all the complaints it receives to ASCI for adjudication. In print, nearly 80 per cent ads voluntarily comply with CCC rulings. So, how can ASCI be called toothless tiger? ASCI is not a toothless tiger!


It has been 26 years since ASCI was established, what are the changes you think ASCI has brought to the minds of the consumers and the advertising industry?

ASCI has increased awareness, atleast among its members who release 80 per cent of non-government advertising in India, on the need to have ads which are true, decent and fair to competition.  Consumers are also made more aware of ASCI as a service that can help remove ads which they find misleading or indecent or displaying unsafe practices. As a result, the total number of complaints to ASCI has increased from 770 in 2010/11 to about 2,000 in 2011/12.



‘Paradigm shift for self-regulation’


I Venkat
LV Krishnan

According to the Advertising Standards Council of India’s agreement with TAM, AdEx India will identify ads which are potential violation of Chapter 1 of ASCI code – to ensure truthfulness and honesty of representation and claims made by advertisements against misleading advertisements. The advertisements that violate the ASCI advertising code will be forwarded to ASCI on a weekly basis, post which ASCI would process them as per its complaint redressal procedure involving its Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) for adjudication.


AdEx India will monitor ads in the auto, banking, financial services and insurance, FMCG (including F&B), consumer durables, educational institutions, health care products and services, telecom and real estate sectors. AdEx will track more than 30 newspapers which is said to contribute over 80 per cent of national newspaper readership and all television channels across India in all languages.


Said Mr I Venkat, Chairman, ASCI: “The National Advertising Monitoring Service or NAMS initiative is a paradigm shift for self-regulation in Indian advertising and probably a benchmark for the other countries. For such an important industry central initiative, TAM’s AdExIndiawas the obvious option to handle such a large responsibility that brought in requisite infrastructure, neutrality, integrity and quality.NAMSwill strengthen the ad self regulation redressal process manifold, as we will be able to proactively monitor wider number of ads. This will be in the best interest of the Indian consumers as it will significantly reduce release of misleading advertising in India.”


Mr LV Krishnan, CEO, TAM Media Research said: “Apart from media measurement, for decades now, we have been playing a silent, yet central industry, role towards media (advertising) monitoring and analytics as well. Our partnership with ASCI is yet another reiteration of the neutral role we play within the Indian landscape.”


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