The curious case of self-regulation

23 May,2022



By Vikas Mehta


Vikas MehtaThe Budweiser ad aired on the IPL last week is symptomatic of the hypocrisy that is so evident in the industry. On the face of it, there is a blanket ban on alcohol and gutkha products. Yet, both the categories find enough loopholes to beat the ban. Both get away with surrogate advertising. ‘We are not about guthka but about silver coated elaichi.’ ‘ We are not about alcohol but about playing cards or water.’ And to add insult to the injury, stars like Akshay Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan, who at the drop of a hat shout about nationalism and patriotism, find nothing morally wrong in promoting such products. When they are criticised and trolled, they profess ignorance about such surrogate advertising, apologise, make some grand gestures about cancelling contract or donating the earnings to a social cause and life continues as before. The ads continue unashamedly.


But the Budweiser ad tops it all. It does not even pretend to be a surrogate. It shows what definitely looks like a beer bottle. It talks about being brewed over nights. And then to make sure there is no confusion that the product is a beer, it talks about brewed over 21 nights for a smoother taste. How brazen can one get? It’s almost like teasing the regulatory bodies. And what will they do?


ASCI will wait for someone to complain. Then issue a showcause notice. If the advertiser does not respond within a few weeks, it will write to the advertiser that the ad violates its code of conduct and they should desist from airing the ad. In the meanwhile, IPL would have not only finished but the advertiser would have anyways stopped airing the ads. Come to think of it, Budweiser has already stopped the ads. It was a neat ambush. All are happy. The advertiser has got exposure in IPL. ASCI will have done everything by the book and can claim that they stopped the ad.


But soon enough this will become inspiration for another advertiser and the whole story will be repeated. This self-regulation is a joke. We need fines, bans. Some tough measures. But what can one expect from a body whose rules do not allow it to rule on government or political ads. Mind you, these are the largest source of revenue for press media. But ASCI constitution does not allow it to question political ads or government ads. So, how can we expect anything tough from ASCI? The self-regulation is a hypocrisy so that no law-enforcing body need interfere. The industry continues to make merry. This charade, hypocrisy has to be stopped. Either ASCI gets a mandate to take tough measures, or remove the loopholes or let an outside body with enough powers step in.


The silver lining this week was the first decent Jio ad I have seen. And it was for Jiomart. A very homely and not over-the-top, Ranveer showcases the simple features of Jiomart along with Deepika. Everyday sasta, no minimum order. The two ads make two simple points. One, is the power of storytelling. Single-minded benefit in each ad makes it episodic and entertaining. Two, how star power can be harnessed in an effective way. Ranveer, has a screen persona which is outlandish and over the top. But as a husband one can expect him to be a normal, doting husband. And that’s exactly how he comes across.

For me, the ad of the week was Cred. There have been lot of stories and tales about Ravi Shastri and his extracurricular habits. Cred used these brilliantly to build a narrative about Shastri. What I particularly like was that they could convince Shastri to portray his oft-debated, but never openly discussed persona in the ad. It was hugely entertaining and did the job for the brand also very well.

So, as we have the four surprise play-off teams in competition, we have had some surprising ads this week. Which were your Top 4 ads of IPL 2022? Compare your notes with me. Next week.



Vikas Mehta is a senior marketing and business strategist and educator. This is the second IPL season where he has been reviewing for MxMIndia. His views here are personal.

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