Why do Brands – Big & Small – flout ASCI guidelines?

07 Jun,2017


By Sanjeev Kotnala


I am not sure. What should be the reaction? Should one be happy, seeing 10-plus pages of more than 12,000 words in repetitive boring style listing details of the upheld complaints, keeping it transparent and open? Should one be sad, that after so many initiative, tie-ups, education, there are repeat offender category, brands and companies that still try to be smarter than the industry self-regulatory body?

Don’t they understand that they have to change?

Or do they find ASCI a toothless tiger that barks!

Whatever may be the reason, there has to be a far more stringent penalty for repeat offenders. Otherwise, it becomes waste of time.

So, as per the press release of June 2017, which details with ASCI CCC ( Consumer Complaints Council) upholding complaints against 214 out of 280 advertisements… a good 76%.

It may be a good idea to share the source of complaints. Is it coming from competing brands? Are the complainers past offenders? Are people outside MAdTec making complaints? Or is the ASCI direct complain system working with increased citizen participation?

It may be interesting to see where dd these communications appeared. Are there titles that are prone to misuse? Is there geographical concentration? It may help in redefining and addressing the problem.

The Healthcare Category accounted for 81% (175/214) of the upheld complaints, and 10% ( 21/175) were from Education. We need to recheck the argument that complaints mostly refer to small regional healthcare brands operating with small-time creative agencies. In the list, we do find brands with large distribution network and decent advertising budget.

Healthcare communication suffered from either misleading or false or not adequately / scientifically substantiated claims. Many places the copywriter on weeds has been able to create a disjointed copy that when contextually placed or read makes for important discovery.

As per the ASCI release, many brands went against the provisions of the Drug & Magic Remedies Act. What does ASCI do in these cases? In fact ‘are considered to be, prima facie, in violation of the DMR Act and the D&C Act ‘ appears like repeatedly like a broken record. It is a serious concern.

I am aware that when a person is suffering from an ailment, the promises made by the medicine, treatment or hospital seem so inviting. The patient and the close friends and relatives fail to question believability of these exaggerated claims. It happens with people who are known to be literate, rational and logical in their approach. So, you can think how big the problem may be.

Could ASCI do something more?

Could it it share this finding with appropriate bodies and associations?

Could something be done to question the use of Dr prefix that many carry while misleading consumers?

Could media help in exposing and detailed stories to put some sort of a reverse pressure on the brands?

Can we in MadTec area pick relevant brands and use the power of social media in letting people know of the unsubstantiated claims or promises?

Consider this. Slimming & Beauty is trapped in its own world of promises and claims. “Five kilogram weight loss guarantee and five-inch figure correction.” . It is openly misleading and is a gross exaggeration.

Gross exaggeration is an effective creative device when the reader is fully aware of the exaggeration and knows that the promise cannot be true. The case in healthcare is different. Diabetes, Weight loss, fertility, contraceptive, knee and joint pains seem to dominate objectionable ads.

The sexual powers and stamina could be treated as a separate category. It is notorious for its innovative advertising styles. “Now more power,” “Get Back the Fire,” are the words you find here. They do sound so very motivating.

ASCI is right in interpreting them in conjunction with pack visuals and the other copy. It doesn’t knowledge of any rocket science to notice it is nothing more than a promise of sexual pleasure enhancement.
What would “Effective for Energy, Excitement and Power” or “Massage daily and experience the height of happiness? Only for Men,” “Increase sex time up to 35 minutes” or “Feel the power. Hour – after – hour” mean in such advertisement.

Healthcare like the media industry seems to suffer from ‘No 1’ syndrome. Another is the wrong interpretation and intentional misuse of Trusted Brand, Lakhs of patients cured- all without any third party validation.

Shree Maruti Herbal (Stay On Power Capsules and Oil), Trophic Wellness Pvt. Ltd ( Nutrigain range of products) , Rajnish Hot Deals Pvt. Ltd. (Play Win Capsule), Dindayal Aushadhi Pvt. Ltd. (303 Capsules) and Star Ayurveda (Star Homeopathy) have a series of complaints upheld against them. Maybe ASCI needs to meet the client, and creative agency or the in-house team as the case may be.

I must share the omni-cure ad by Manjeeram Holistic Centre. It claims, “Provides treatment for any kind of diseases without any medicine. Should the management not be tested for mental soundness to conduct business and put behind bars? Want to check specificc brand complaints click here..

When names like Complan, Airtel, Aaj Tak and CNN News18 get complaints upheld, you start questioning the industry intent. Do they notunderstand the ASCI code?. Are they not in competent hands or are they playing a game, consciously punting on getting away with the act?

On the lighter side can someone in sync with ASCI initiate awards for MOST OBJECTIONABLE BRANDS and COMPANIES. Shame them, in public. Maybe this self-regulation will work.


ASCI screens a lot of ads; however, if you have a complaint against an advertisement- you can complain here. To know more about ASCI click here.. You can watch a small clip on ASCI here.. For further information, please contact: The Advertising Standards Council of India Shweta Purandare, Secretary General, ASCI Phone: 91 22 2495 5070 / 91 9821162785 | Email: shweta@ascionline.org


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