Is Mr Sachin Khurana a headache for self-regulator ASCI?

07 Sep,2022

 

 

By Sanjeev Kotnala

 

Sanjeev KotnalaLaw is always a step behind reality. And guidelines and regulations are a few steps behind. The victim suffers, and the perpetrator keeps finding new loopholes to exploit. But, when the perpetrator violating the ASCI guideline is a well-known big pharmaceutical company, we expect them to be totally aware of the guidelines and the loopholes. And when they act like this, it is time to rethink.

 

Yes, the advertisement by GSK appeared in TOI. The publication’s internal quality cell could/ should have highlighted the issue and refused, but they did not. Karthik (@Beastoftraal) mentioned the objections on Twitter and I complained to ASCI. Hope they do see the problem. Karthik has also pointed out how toothpastes use unfamiliar faces and how celebrities act like people of influence in white coats.

 

WHITE COAT= DOCTOR or SCIENTIST.

It is as simple as ABC. The audience relates White Coat to a person of expertise and influence. Mainly as a doctor, pharmacist, scientist or at the least a lab attendant who knows what he or she is doing.

 

There is no doubt that in this advertisement for Crocin, the brand wants the audience to infer it as someone who knows what he is recommending. But, then, the brand cannot have a doctor suggesting/ recommending Crocin, an OTC (Over Counter Drug) that is available without a prescription.

 

FIND A WAY OUT.

Enter the loophole. Feature a model wearing a white coat. And then identify the model with its name. Brilliant- as he is an actual model. No Dr. prefix. So, we have clearly shown that he is not a doctor, but he recommends Crocin. Problem solved.

But why would a company like GSK, known for its pharmaceutical products, vaccines etc., have any Tom, Dick or Harry recommend the product? It does not make sense.

 

MANY QUESTIONS.

Hopefully, ASCI will ask the questions Karthik asks in his tweet.

 

Why is the model named at all in this ad? Is that the company practice? Does the company do it every time there is a recommendation?

 

Why add “Mr.” before ‘Sachin Khurana’? Is it to differentiate him from “Dr.”?

 

Why is “Mr Sachin Khurana” wearing a white coat? Is he a doctor, lab attendant or scientist? Should we trust “Mr.” Sachin Khurana’s words about Crocin just because he’s dressed like a doctor?

 

NET-NET.

There is no denying that the brand tried to exploit some loophole and pass the model as a person of expertise. To most OTC drug buyers, Crocin would mean just that, and it is not expected of a large brand and company to do so.

 

SELF REGULATION.

ASCI is an industry body doing its best within its limitations. It has well-formatted guidelines.  It is ultimately the responsibility of the brand managers, creative agencies, and media partners to self-regulate. There are enough big companies and brands who instead of setting example do not follow the guidelines. It cannot happen if the industry representatives do not share the responsibility. Following ASCI guidelines will actually strengthen the industry.  Suppose self-regulation fails and is not followed in spirit. In that case, the industry should be put under government regulations, at least for the medical field. And the errant brands must be penalised for their discretion.

 

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