Marketing Featured South Asia

Ad watchdog in India releases official COVID-19 guidelines

India – The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has released on Tuesday an official advisory for brands and companies in releasing COVID-19-related advertisements.

The authority said the guidelines are in response to a proliferation of ads with misleading claims around coronavirus cures and preventions.

In the statement, ASCI cautions ads that claim destruction or removal of any virus other than COVID-19, a violation of the authority’s clauses 1.4, and 1.5, pertaining to the distortion of facts and the misframing of information for consumers. 

In cases that an advertiser opts to include such claims, ASCI reminded that the disclaimer “claim not applicable to coronavirus (COVID-19),” or a similar message, must be displayed, and shown in the size and position aligned with ASCI’s specifications. 

Advertisers are also likewise warned to be extra conscientious in making, whether direct or indirect, claims in reducing the chances of becoming infected with the virus, or gaining immunity against it. In such cases, advertisers should be able to substantiate such claims with technical support by recognized or approved health authorities such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), or any health organizations of similar stature. Support may also come from well-recognized medical and technical literature or by regulatory-approved clinical research conducted by a recognized medical institute and laboratory.

Similarly, the authority made mention that brands offering products that are not internally consumed or applied to bodies hence, those not requiring a license under the Drug & Cosmetic Act, must be particularly careful in making claims regarding the prevention, immunity, and treatment for the virus unless supported with sufficient data. 

In April 2020, the Ministry of AYUSH has released an order for regulatory authorities in the states and union territories on AYUSH, drugs that have been launched without any rigorous pharmacological studies and clinical trial, to stop and prevent publicity and advertisement of AYUSH-related claims for COVID-19. In the guidelines, ASCI emphasized the order which restricts communications on print, TV, and electronic media. 

ASCI said the released directions are only the first of many steps to safeguard consumers from the plethora of misleading pandemic-related claims

Since the Ministry of AYUSH’s memo in April, ASCI has processed 250 violating advertisements and reported 233 from the healthcare sector to the ministry. 

General Secretary of ASCI Manisha Kapoor said that although the pandemic is a difficult time for everyone, even for brands, it isn’t a reason to resort to negligence.

“Manufacturers and brands have responded to consumer needs arising out of the pandemic. However, we want these products and advertisements to stick to claims and promises that are well backed by adequate substantiation,” said Kapoor.

Kapoor added, “We want advertisers to be more mindful in creating advertisements and making claims related to Covid-19. Given the pandemic and the extended lockdowns, people are obviously concerned.”

ASCI has already rolled out digital banners of the guidelines on its social media pages.

Marketing Featured Global

Homescapes, Gardenscapes ads banned by ASA for misrepresentation

United Kingdom – The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK has banned two paid-for Facebook posts by developer Playrix for two of its video game apps, Homescapes and Gardenscapes, due to several complaints of the ads’ inaccurate representation.  

The free-to-play games are both tile-matching types with an accompanying storyline for a simulation feature. 

Both the Homescapes and Gardenscapes ads featured a problem-solving type of game, which are the mini-games included in the overall app. The Homescapes ad included a video which showed three cartoon characters of a man, a woman, and a burglar, where pins were being pulled out in an attempt to unite the man and woman without meeting the burglar. Throughout the video, an on-screen text at the top stated “Help her escape!”

Gardenscapes banned Ads

Meanwhile, the ad for Gardenscapes similarly included a video which showed two cartoon scenarios. The first, a man floating at the base of a tower filling with water, where above him, two pins held money and lava in place; while in the second, the man was shown separated by pins from a dog, lava, and money. Both ads displayed the text “Not all images represent actual gameplay” at the start of the video.

Complainants of the ads were seven in total. In response, Playrix upheld that the content seen in the ads was included in their games and that it represented part of the gameplay itself. The developer believed that the ad appealed to the logic and problem-solving skills required to win during the games.

Furthermore, Playrix said that the mini-games shown in the ads were first available to play at the beginning of April 2020, but only on more distant levels. They said that they had since changed the games so that the gameplay shown in the ads was available towards the beginning of the games. The developer also argued that the time limits within Facebook ads kept them to feature the variety of mechanics and elements in the game.

ASA sticks to its ruling, concluding the ads breached the Committees of Advertising Practice’s (CAP) code rules on misleading advertising,  qualification, and exaggeration; putting forth the order that the ads must not appear again in the form complained of.

ASA said in its statement that through the ads, consumers gain a general perception that the content featured was representative of the Homescapes and Gardenscapes games overall, and that they might also consider the games to consist of a similar problem solving style shown in the ads.

It also countered Playrix’s arguments on Facebook ads’ limiting time and said that the time placed were of sufficient length to feature content the could have been reflective of the overall games.

Marketing Featured South Asia

Advertising watchdog in India to expand monitoring to digital platforms for misleading claims

Mumbai, India – Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has extended its regulatory coverage to monitor digital platforms, and it will be procuring media intel TAM Media Research’s services to run the said function.

The regulation will cover search engines, video sites, news portals and websites for interests like astrology and automobiles. 

Initially, ASCI will track the food and beverage as well as the healthcare and education sectors on digital media as they accounted for 79% of the complaints processed by ASCI last year. 

According to ASCI, digital advertising made up for 30% of the total media spends in India. 

The extended function will be added to the already established print and TV tracking under the council’s National Advertising Monitoring Service (NAMS) for potentially misleading advertisements, which is similarly in collaboration with TAM.

ASCI Chairman Rohit Gupta said, “We live in a world that’s becoming more digital by the day, so a lot of marketing is shifting to such platforms. For a self-regulatory body, it makes sense to expand our monitoring of the offline space to include the online space as well.”