Mumbai, India – Lack of transparency by influencers in India in regard to their brand affiliations is a key reason why they are most likely to get distanced from by their followers, a recent report from the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has stated.

According to said data, 43% of the respondents agree that it is worth distancing themselves from the brand if they fail to disclose their brand affiliation. Other reasons include repetitive content (42%) and over-promotion of a product or service (41%).

This then leads to a high proportion of Indian consumers yearning for transparency and honesty from influencers, which was mostly agreed upon by 79% of the study participants. 

Meanwhile, reasons for influencers to gain that trust would be having relatable content (57%) and injecting personal stories (53%). 

Moreover, the report showed how simply being interlinked with each other renders a positive return in consumer sentiment. Around 64% of consumers felt the brand became more trustworthy when influencers endorsed it and vice versa— 58% of those surveyed thought that the influencers became more trustworthy when they endorsed the brand. 

Manisha Kapoor, CEO & secretary general of ASCI, shared that they have long helped push forth the huge rate of transparency and honesty amongst influencers through its guideline implementations in 2021, where authorities from the Central Consumer Protection Authorities also now require disclosure of material connection between brands and influencers.

“Hence, non-disclosures are potential violations of the law. An important aspect of the dipstick is the revelation that non-transparency was among the prime reasons why influencers lost the trust of their followers. On the other hand, transparency in their communication significantly built trust,” she stated.

The new ASCI data comes right after a recent study made by the ad watchdog regarding top brand violators in the advertising scene, which saw personal care products drawing the most red flags.

Mumbai, India – In its latest report titled ‘Objectionable ads in the Beauty & Personal Care category and the rising impact of influencer marketing & D2C brands’, ad watchdog for India Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has revealed that the personal care sector has emerged amongst the top three violators.

According to ASCI, the personal care sector contributed to 12% of all objectionable advertisements it examined. The regulatory body processed complaints against 1,126 advertisements in the said sector from 2021 to 2022 and from Q1 to Q3 of 2022 until 2023.

The report has further unveiled that 5.7% of ads in violation of the ASCI Code were from the personal hygiene category, 30.3% from the skincare category, 24.7% from the cosmetics category, 19.4% from hair care, and 17.5% from multiple categories.

Social media influencers were responsible for 68% of the ads processed in the personal care category, out of which 92% violated the ASCI Code and required modifications. Of those, 77% were not contested and the voluntary compliance rate stood at 91%.

Meanwhile, 84% of violative ads belonged to D2C brands, which have a significant presence on social and digital platforms The platform split for violative ads in personal care was also divided amongst Instagram with 55.3%, YouTube with 25.9%, Facebook with 11.3%, and websites with 4.8%.

Speaking about the report, CEO and Secretary General of ASCI Manisha Kapoor said, “Personal care, particularly on digital platforms, is a high engagement space for consumers, and it is important that their interests be protected. Over the past few years, ASCI has constantly strived to update its guidelines to extend consumer protection to many emerging sectors and platforms.”

Kapoor likewise mentioned that the organisation’s AI-based digital monitoring made it possible to efficiently identify violations and drive compliance.

Moreover, the other top two violators mentioned in the report were education at 26% and healthcare at 15%. The launch of influencer guidelines in May 2021 along with ASCI’s AI-based tools has also added to the increased number of ads under scrutiny.

The report follows the amendments in ad disclaimers the ASCI has made last month.

Mumbai, India – In response to a recent survey stating that 80% of respondents do not notice disclaimers in ads, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has tightened its ‘Guidelines for Disclaimers made in supporting, limiting or explaining claims made in advertisements’.

The ASCI survey was done with 130 consumers, which also revealed that 33% of the respondents could not understand the disclaimers clearly even after adequate exposure time while  62% of them felt that the disclaimers were excessively long.

Moreover, the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) have also observed that the frame of the advertisements containing the disclaimer was ‘very crowded’ and distracted the viewer’s focus.

To address these issues, ASCI has made some amendments to the guidelines, including limiting long and complex disclaimers to two full-length lines only. The disclaimers should also be readable, in a single frame, and must remain on screen for more than four seconds for every line.

Meanwhile, for regulatory requirements where the disclaimer exceeds two lines, additional hold duration should be inculcated. The ASCI also added that all forms of text appearing on screen at any one point in time should likewise be counted calculating the hold duration of disclaimers.

The ASCI has however retained guidelines such as restricting disclaimers from attempting to correct a misleading claim made in an advertisement and attempting to suppress material information with respect to the claim, amongst others.

Manisha Kapoor, CEO and secretary-general at ASCI commented on the amendments, stating, “While ASCI has had disclaimer guidelines since 2016, it was observed that over-use of disclaimers made it difficult for consumers to understand all the information presented in the ad. This is evident from our survey where 80% of consumers did not even notice the disclaimers.”

The ASCI has also previously partnered with K&S Partners to identify unfair trademark practices used by brands.

Mumbai, India – The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has elected NS Rajan, director of August One Partners LLP, as its new chairman of the board of governors.

Rajan is a public relations veteran with a demonstrated history of setting up and managing firms in the PR industry. He was earlier the founder and managing director of Ketchum Sampark, an Omnicom Group Company.

In a statement, Rajan said that in his leadership at ASCI, he will focus on thought leadership initiatives, industry reports and its ASCI Academy to take ASCI ahead into the future.

He also looks forward to advancing the agenda of the Council to rapidly increase ASCI awareness among consumers so that they engage more readily and in greater numbers, voicing their concerns, anxieties, and questions about what they experience in the form of thousands of ads per day.

“I would also focus on ASCI’s efforts more towards prevention, in addition to the robust corrective mechanisms we have built over the decades. This we would do by using the several initiatives already in play – whether advice, guidance, training, or self-regulation,” Rajan said.

He added, “The third pillar would be to keep ahead of the fast-expanding and fractionalising digital domain to ensure that responsible advertising principles are followed equally across all media and consumer engagements by advertising in every form. A lot has been done by ASCI over the last several years, and I am committed to seeing that the momentum generated by all past efforts is kept alive or even pushed forward with greater speed.”

Meanwhile, outgoing chairman Subhash Kamath commented, “The past two years have been truly transformational for ASCI. Our vision of making ASCI more future-ready by taking on the challenges of a digital world and a fast-changing communication landscape, and by adding value to the industry through more agility, responsiveness, services, and thought leadership, has started showing results.” 

He added, “I’m sure ASCI will continue to grow from strength to strength in the coming years. It’s been a privilege to serve as its chairman and I thank the board, the CCC members and the wonderful secretariat team for making it possible.”

Delhi, India – The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) have released a set of guidelines that lay down boundaries for unacceptable portrayals and encourage advertisers to create more progressive gender depictions.

The guidelines were announced in an event held at India Habitat Centre and is presided by Minister of Women and Child Development Smriti Irani, following the launch of its GenderNext report in October 2021, a study by ASCI and Futurebrands.

The guidelines encourage advertisers and creators to deploy the SEA (Self-esteemed – Empowered – Allied) framework that guides stakeholders in imagining as well as evaluating portrayals of gender in their advertising by building empathy and aiding evaluation, as well as the 3S framework, which provides a checklist to guard against tropes and implicit stereotypes that creep into advertising.

“Gender portrayal is a complex and nuanced issue and the guidelines provide an interpretation of ASCI’s Chapter III (related to harmful situations), which deals with ads that can cause harm to individuals or society. Gender stereotypes are harmful because they lock individuals in certain roles and perpetuate certain dynamics that are harmful to society. Advertising, through subtle and implicit depictions, reinforces certain harmful stereotypes and overlooks the aspirations of individuals and groups,” ASCI said in a press statement.

These frameworks can prove to be extremely useful for marketing and advertising professionals to improve their advertising ROIs.

Speaking on the guidelines release, Irani said, “While there are women who are happy with the incremental change that has been made in the advertising industry, women of my generation are a bit more impatient. It is time not only for the men but also for the women in the advertising industry to step up. This is a very important move, and I believe that there is a long journey to be undertaken to turn the thinking but it’s required now. Work in this area must move with more and more speed and organisations like ASCI should lead this, the action beginning with its member base.”

Meanwhile, Subhash Kamath, chairman at ASCI, commented, “The new guidelines were created after extensive consultation with many partners- both from industry, as well as civil society organisations, including the Unstereotype Alliance and UNICEF. These guidelines are a big step forward in strengthening ASCI’s agenda to shape a more responsible and progressive narrative. We are grateful to the government and Shrimati Smriti Irani for supporting these guidelines, and to the many partners who have been with us on this journey.”

India – The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has announced the suspension of ads launched by deodorant brand Layer’r Shot due to the ad’s nature of promoting rape culture and sexism against women.

The ad, which has since been taken down across the brand’s official social media channels, depicts a woman shopping when a group of four men begin to say “We’re four, and there’s only one” while keeping a glance at the woman. Later on in the ad, it pointed out that the phrase was meant to pertain to the single Shot deodorant on the shelf.

Following the release of the ad, netizens have called out the ad for its ‘sexist and derogatory’ themes that undermines issues women face with rape culture and an unbalanced society that still favours men.

In a statement by ASCI, they noted that the ads are in serious violation of Chapter II of the ASCI Code against offensive advertising.

“The said ad is in potential violation of ASCI’s chapter II, which states that advertisements should contain nothing indecent, vulgar, especially in the depiction of women, or nothing repulsive which is likely, in the light of generally prevailing standards of decency and propriety, to cause grave and widespread offence,” the association said in a statement.

It also informed the brand’s advertiser on 3 June, informing them of the decision to suspend the advertising, and invited the advertiser’s response which would be tabled before the Consumer Complaints Council in the coming days.

Meanwhile, India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has also stated that the ad has been pulled off from official Twitter and YouTube channels, as well as being taken down from the TV station it aired.

Following the backlash, Layer’r Shot released a statement, stating, “We, the brand Layer’r SHOT would like to inform one and all that only after due and mandatory approvals, we have aired the advertisements, wherein, we never intended to hurt anyone’s sentiments or feelings or outrage any women’s modesty or promote any sort of culture, as wrongly perceived by some.”

Mumbai, India – Data insights Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) and consulting firm Kantar has released a new white paper explaining how mainstreaming positive gender portrayals has a positive impact on business.

In India, advertising is mainstream, all-pervasive, and plays a role in forming people’s collective psyche. With GenderNext, a study undertaken by the ASCI and Futurebrands it proves how progressive portrayals of gender in advertising benefit not only society but as well as on brands. 

GenderNext, a study undertaken by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) and Futurebrands, looked at 600 ads across different categories and spoke to consumers across 10 cities. The study revealed that real women considered themselves more progressive than depictions in mainstream advertising. 

Menawhile, Kantar found that progressive portrayals of women result in advertising that is more effective. Data by Kantar showed that Indian advertisements that depicted progressive gender roles had a positive impact of as much as 32% in short-term product sales and improved a brand’s equity by a whopping 51%. These results and insights prove that progressive depictions of women can drive engagement with brands in a major way.

Kantar’s study, conducted in collaboration with the Unstereotype Alliance and based on the Unstereotype Metric (UM), assesses how consumers react to gender portrayals in brand advertising. According to the research, using progressive depictions can help firms achieve higher marketing ROI. Furthermore, positive gender roles are found to have an even greater impact on India than they do in other rising markets.

Meanwhile, the GenderNext survey found that the bulk of mainstream advertising continues to portray women in negative and non-aspirational ways. For marketing and advertising professionals to comprehend the intricacies of gender portrayal, the study suggests the ‘SEA’ framework and the 3S screener, as well as an inventory checklist for the examination of screenplays or films. This not only aids in the identification of implicit and regressive stereotypes but also provides a model for helping brands create more compelling and powerful advertising. The adoption of such frameworks is intended to give advertisers with a technique to boost their marketing ROIs.

Preeti Reddy, chairwoman for South Asia Insights Division at Kantar, said that mainstreaming positive gender portrayals is an exciting opportunity for creating engaging and impactful advertising. 

“While taking a firm stand against inequality is commendable, there is space to tell vibrant brand stories between the extreme ends of objectifying and deifying women. Without being preachy, subtle subversions on slice-of-life moments, gender roles and responses have the potential to make the viewing experience rewarding for consumers as well as to plant the seed of a fresh mental gender map,” Reddy said.

Reddy added, “Positive gender portrayal is not just about occasional tributes but also about a more conscious integration of progressive portrayal of genders in advertising. Such advertising holds the potential to deliver higher marketing RoI and to help create a more inclusive world.”

Manisha Kapoor, CEO & secretary general of ASCI, commented, “Advertisers can no longer afford to ignore the issue of progressive depictions of women. Women, particularly the younger generation, reject the implicit and explicit stereotyping that creeps into advertising. Women see progressive advertising as their ally in their journeys to more fulfilling lives. It is amply clear that it makes good business sense for brands to portray positive gender roles, adding real value to business and society.”

Mumbai, India — Cricket season is starting to heat up in India, as the Indian Premier League (IPL) has opened once again with its latest season kicking off in March. . With this, brands are now pumped up to make the best of the undivided attention from sports fans, specifically in the online real-money gaming industry, but most of these ads are not being thumbs-upped by ad watchdog Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI).

In the first week of the IPL alone, ASCI screened 35 ads from the category and identified 14 as being in potential violation of its code. ASCI is scrutinizing TV and OTT ads as well.

In addition, in March alone, 285 social media ads of online real-money gaming companies were identified as being in violation of the ASCI Code.

Manisha Kapoor, CEO and secretary-general of ASCI, said that ASCI is concerned to note that, despite clear guidelines, some online real-money gaming firms are attempting a shortcut. Kapoor added that in an industry that is under significant regulatory scrutiny, such acts by some companies paint the entire industry as irresponsible.

“IPL, being a massive platform, requires responsible behaviour from all parties – including gaming firms, broadcasters, celebrities and ad creators. We hope that all parties play their roles to ensure that consumers are not exposed to misleading advertising,” Kapoor said.

ASCI underscored that in some cases, dubious claims such as ‘India’s biggest 1st prize’ were being made, and in many cases, the disclaimer informing consumers of the risks was flashed very quickly rather than at a normal speaking pace. For others, the advertisements had celebrities acting while the disclaimer was being spoken, distracting consumers from important information about risks. Due to this, The council has urged gaming industry bodies to take up responsibility.

ASCI guidelines on real-money gaming came into effect on December 15, 2020. The guidelines require advertisements to not be aimed at minors, not present gaming as a source of livelihood or link it to success. In addition, the guidelines require all advertisements to carry a prominent disclaimer regarding the risk of financial loss and the addictive nature of such games. These guidelines were backed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which issued an advisory asking that advertisements adhere to the guidelines.

Mumbai, India – The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has launched a new service called ‘Endorser Due Diligence’, a paid advisory which will feature ASCI’s expertise in advertising assessment, including technical claims that are part of the advertisement.

Through the service, ASCI has established a panel of experts, from over 20 disciplines, ranging from advertising regulation and legal, ayurveda, microbiology, electronics, market research, nutrition, dentistry, product formulations, financial services, and so on. Said panel will assess the representations, statements, and claims in the advertisement from a consumer and technical perspective, examine the evidence in support of the claim where necessary, and thereby help the endorser conduct their due diligence.

According to Subhash Kamath, chairman at ASCI, the ‘Endorser Due Diligence’ will be confidential and non-binding and will be issued in the name of the endorser.

“Endorsers, particularly celebrities, have a huge fan following and they enjoy the trust of millions of consumers. There is therefore a direct moral and now, legal responsibility that they bear to ensure that they do not make representations in ads that could be considered misleading. ASCI has always required celebrities to be mindful of what they endorse in advertisements, and now the law too, requires them to do due diligence in this regard,” Kamath said.

Through the service, the advertisements can be sent to ASCI at any stage, including pre-production. This ensures that the endorser can do their independent due diligence before the advertisement is produced.

Meanwhile, Manisha Kapoor, secretary general at ASCI, commented, “Endorsers may not always be experts when it comes to the products they push and the claims they make. The law makes endorsers liable for the advertisements they appear in, hence Endorser Due Diligence becomes a critical need. ASCI’s service that is speedy, confidential, and based on the assessment of a multi-disciplinary panel can help endorsers do their due diligence in a timely and comprehensive manner, ensuring that consumers are not misled and that the endorser too, fulfils their legal obligations.”

Mumbai, India – To help brands and agencies create campaigns with inclusive gender narratives, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) in collaboration with management consulting company Futurebrands has launched the ‘GenderNext’ study, which aims to give actionable insights in representing women in advertising.

The ‘GenderNext’ study includes patterns of female portrayals across multiple categories, such as personal care, fashion, beauty, home and hearth, gadgets and wheels, money, and education. The study presents insights on how advertising portrays women versus how they see themselves and want to be seen.

The study interviewed various women across different life stages and town classes, and according to them, they feel that advertising can be their ally in this journey. The study found that for young unmarried women, common stereotypes used in advertising such as women joyfully undertaking the drudgery of work have not been aspirational for them at all.

“Typical women’s day ads that show women emerge victorious after significant struggle were not considered particularly empowering. Women are tired of ads showing young women being bestowed with freedoms only after putting up a fight,” the study stated.

In line with such misportrayals, the study proposes a category agnostic framework known as the ‘SEA (Self-esteemed, Empowered, Allied) Framework’ that aims to guide stakeholders in imagining as well as evaluating portrayals of women in their advertising by building empathy and aiding evaluation.

The study also proposes a 3s screener for scripts and storyboards, casting, styling to identify stereotype red flags. The screener looks at aspects of subordination, service, and standardization, and solves these negative stereotypes through the lens of self-esteem, empowerment, and alliance.

For Lipika Kumaran, lead author at GenderNext, the study has exposed that mainstream advertising still heavily borrows from an inventory of overused, and sometimes harmful stereotypical tropes.

“A detailed study of over six hundred advertisements revealed several problematic tropes- such as sensualizing the act of eating by women, showing women as spenders in financial advertising, women running around the house while others lounge around, male gaze acceptance in beauty ads, showing women as lower down in tech-hierarchy in gadget ads, male celebrities challenging and instructing women, among others,” Kumaran explained.

Meanwhile, Subhash Kamath, chairman at ASCI, noted that said study acts as a guide for stakeholders – brand owners, marketers, advertising professionals – to aid the creation of more progressive depictions of women in advertising.

“The deep insights on women, and what they feel about advertising is a fantastic input into advertising creation, and we hope that brands and advertisers will be motivated by the findings to depict women in more progressive ways. We also intend to set up a task force to evaluate advertising guidelines on harmful stereotypes,” Kamath stated.

Furthermore, Santosh Desai, managing director at Futurebrands commented that the study has identified some common patterns of discrimination and has also created a framework that enables marketers to identify and eliminate such undesirable representations.

“As an influential form of popular culture, advertising has historically been a significant source for the propagation of gender stereotypes. While things are changing, what this study, initiated by ASCI and carried out by Futurebrands uncovers, is that gender continues to be represented in a skewed and discriminatory manner. Some obvious ways of stereotyping are less visible, but there are many other ways, both subtle and not-so-subtle, in which gender portrayals continue to be skewed,” Desai concluded.

For this study, the primary research involved ad clinics with 160 respondents and 20 focus group discussions across 10 centers, in addition to tapping into Futurebrand’s proprietary study Bharat Darshan. More than 300 people were spoken to via social media.