ASCI asks Bharti Softbank to axe Taproot’s digital ads for Hike Messenger

17 Sep,2013

By Pritha Mitra Dasgupta


The Advertising Standards Council of India has for the first time taken action against a digital ad, asking Bharti SoftBank to withdraw an online commercial for its free messaging app Hike Messenger because it violated its codes.


The self-regulatory advertising watchdog has sent out a suspension order on a commercial titled ‘Keep Close Friends Close’ to both Bharti SoftBank and creative agency Taproot, after finding it “extremely offensive”.


Arvind Sharma

“This is the first time we could take a strict stand against an ad that was launched in the digital space,” Arvind Sharma, the outgoing chairman of ASCI and chairman and CEO India Subcontinent at Leo Burnett, said. Umesh Srikhande, CEO at Taproot, declined to comment. A person familiar with the development said Bharti SoftBank has agreed to take the commercial off YouTube. The company had released a set of four ads for Hike Messenger targeting young audience on August 27. One of them is set in a library where three boys spot a friend in a nearby seat with a girl. The boy with the girl ignores their hushed calls. Suddenly, one of the three boys stands up and screams abuses in Hindi and threatens to call the girl’s real boyfriend. And the boy sitting with the girl sprints out of the library. Although light-hearted in its tone, the film is riddled with abusive and obscene language and breaches the ASCI code, the regulator said.


ASCI roped in internet giant Google as a partner to send out the suspension order, Mr Sharma said on the sidelines of the recently concluded ASCI’s annual general meeting. “And this collaboration with Google will hopefully go a long way,” he said.


“Tracking ads releasing on websites is a huge challenge for us and we are taking baby steps in this space. The legal position is not well defined and we do not know how to even begin to monitor this vast ocean of websites,” Mr Sharma said. The regulator is now trying to get Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin on board as members to help it form a specialised team that will monitor ads on the Internet.


Mr Sharma said the action against Bharti SoftBank’s ad was initiated after Allen Colaco, secretary general at ASCI, received a number of phone calls. The regulator brought the ad under the suspension pending investigation (SPI) article, where the ASCI chairman and two members of its consumer complaint council (CCC) make a fast-track decision. The SPI deals with ads that are obscene, indecent, and vulgar and that are against public interest.


For this ad, Mr Sharma and two members of the CCC – Bobby Sista, founder and executive trustee at Population First, and Sameer Sathpathy, EVP and business head at Marico India – looked into the matter. “And we found it extremely offensive,” Sharma said. Besides sending out suspension order to both the client and the agency, ASCI have also written to various media companies that may have planned to release this ad on various media platforms to consider this ad as a serious offender.


Source:The Economic Times

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See also: Maadar… Taproot crafts bold digital campaign for Hike



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