Mumbai: During the month of May 2019, ASCI investigated complaints against 231 advertisements, of which 67 advertisements were promptly withdrawn by the advertisers as soon as they received the ASCI communication. ASCI’s independent Consumer Complaints Council (CCC)upheld complaints against 132 advertisements, out of 164 advertisements evaluated by them. Of these 132 advertisements, 69 belonged to the education sector, 41 belonged to the healthcare sector, Four to the food & beverages sector, Twoto personal care, and 16were from the ‘others’ category.
Smilarly, ASCI’s Suo Motu surveillance of Print and TV media via the National Advertisement Monitoring Services (NAMS) project has picked up 174 advertisements out of which 51 cases were resolved wherein the advertisers confirmed that the advertisement is being withdrawn immediately post receiving the complaints. Of the 123 advertisements examined by the CCC, complaints against 122 advertisements were upheld. Of these 122 advertisements, 67 belonged to the Education sector, 40 advertisements belonged to the Healthcare sector, One belonged to the Food & Beverage, One belonged to the Personal Care category and 13 belonged to the ‘Others’ category.
ASCI continues to see advertisements featuring celebrities falling foul of “Guidelines for Celebrities in advertising”. Amongst the various advertisements that were examined, CCC pulled up an advertisement where a renowned cricketer was seen endorsing a mobile gaming app making a superlative claim without conclusive evidence of its market leadership. Another advertisement featured a celebrity endorsing the product as “organic” whereas this claim was not substantiated.
Among other advertisements, a high end phone brand promised consumers of extremely sharp and beautiful photo quality while being ambiguous about requirement of additional hardware and software requirement for achieving the depicted picture quality. Another popular beverage brand insinuated that children could consume their beverage in place of eight glasses of water which is recommended daily intake. It also claimed to have the goodness of fruits and vitamins which was misleading by ambiguity and implication. A renowned paint brand promised to purify indoor air and made an absolute claim of being able to kill germs.
A large number of complaints were pertaining to the education sector wherein the advertisers were making unsubstantiated claims of being No. 1 and this was also true for a very well-known private university. The CCC also came across a significant number of advertisement of hospitals and clinics which were misleading and exploited consumers lack of knowledge.
D Shivakumar, Chairman, ASCI said, “ASCI is a self-regulatory body that helps advertisers and consumer recognise and implement relevant and honest communication of brand messages. ASCI works with the Department of Consumer affairs and the Ministry of information and Broadcasting in ensuring that consumer awareness of their rights is fulfilled. ASCI is also working with celebrities and influencers to help educate them on what they should watch out for before endorsing brands. The CCPA is a welcome step after 34 years of the last consumer legislation and provides autonomy and authority at a district level.”
some of the top brand campaign that were pulled up by ASCI:
- Mondelez India Foods P. Ltd (Tang): The television advertisement claim, “Kehte hain bacchon ko 8 glass paani peena chaihye… Mushkil hain par Tang hain na (Translated as “Children should drink eight glasses of water…Difficult but there is Tang)” was clearly insinuating that 8 glasses of Tang should be consumed. The claim was misleading by implication and in contravention of the ASCI Guidelines for Advertising of Foods and Beverages.
- Tata Global Beverages Ltd (Tetley Green Tea):The print advertisement claimed “9/10 USERS PREFER TETLEYGREEN TEA FOR AN ACTIVE LIFE”, the video advertisement uses the word “recommend” which is contrary to the print advertisement. The users (Home Testers Club survey members) were not provided with samples of other brand products to enable them to have a preference; the words “prefer” and “recommend” are misleading by implication. The use of word “Active Life”misleads one to think that use of the product alone would be sufficient to achieve an “Active Life”. Lastly, the quality of the survey conducted was found to be inadequate as there was ample reason to question fair and unbiased communication of information in the advertisement.
- DANONE (Protinex Lite):The product packaging claims ‘Zero sugar’ on the front while the reverse side has a disclaimer stating “Sugar refers to Sucrose”. The advertiser conceded that the product does contain sugar – as base of the product is from lactose, however, the same was not Sucrose i.e. sugar produced from sugarcane or sugar beet. In light of FSSAI regulations, it was recommended that it would more appropriate for the advertiser to mention “Zero Sucrose” in place of “Zero Sugar” to avoid being in contravention with ASCI’s Guidelines for Disclaimers.
- Wipro Enterprises P. Ltd (Santoor Aloe Fresh Soap): The print advertisement’s claim (translated from Marathi) “Lemon present in new Santoor Aloe Fresh Soap removes stickiness, due to which you remain fresh and look young” was misleading by implication. It was noted that the soap product does remove stickiness, provides freshness and brightness by its main functional ingredients i.e. surfactant / cleanser soap and the claimed performance holds true for the product as a whole. Attributing these benefits to the two ingredients alone, when such correlation for the levels present in the product are not conclusively established, is misleading.
- Apple India Pvt. Ltd. (iPhone XS): The television advertisement showed extremely sharp and beautiful shots of the environment – animals, insects, plants and landscapes. The advertisement ends with the tagline “Don’t mess with Mother. Earth shot on iPhone.”The claim leads a lay consumer to believe that the image quality as depicted in the advertisement would be feasible on the iPhone XS alone, whereas in reality, such result would not be achievable without making additional purchases. The CCC did not agree with the advertiser’s contention that the claim is qualified with the disclaimer in the advertisement as this was in contravention of the ASCI’s Guidelines on disclaimers in advertising. The advertisement is misleading by ambiguity and implication.
- Galactus Funware Technology Private Limited-MPL (Mobile Premier League): The television advertisement’s claim “Biggest Gaming App” endorsed by Virat Kohli was not substantiated with any verifiable comparative data or through an audited report or third-party validation. The advertiser did not submit any comparative data of their gaming app versus their close competitors to conclusively prove their market leadership claim. The claim is misleading by exaggeration.
- Reckitt Benckiser Healthcare India Pvt Ltd (Itch Guard Cream): The television advertisement’s claim “Heals infection 4 times faster” was not adequately substantiated and is misleading by ambiguity and implication. The data relied upon for the claim support was dated and20 years old and was specific to the active ingredient. The CCC noted that terbinafine was introduced in India in the late nineties or early 2000s. The CCC observed that over the last several years, India has witnessed an unprecedented epidemic of severe and extensive dermatophytic infections. In CCC’s opinion, to back a specific quantitative claim of better efficacy, it is important that the claim is based on current published studies of terbinafine and currently used common fungicidal agents (including those that have been introduced in the last 20 years). The Indian climatic conditions and habits and practices of Indian consumers are also required to be factored in. In the advertisement the ASCI Guidelines on Disclaimers were also violated as the disclaimer was not in the same language as that of the voice over and was misleading by ambiguity and omission with reference to the source of the claim.
- Nippon Paint (India) Private Limited (Nippon Odour less Air Care): The television advertisement (in Tamil) and its corresponding YouTube advertisement in Hindi claiming “Its active carbon technology kills germs and purifies the air” was not substantiated with any details regarding the product composition, technology, scientific rationale or technical test reports to substantiate the claimed benefits. The advertisement made an absolute claims of killing germs, bacteria and removing formaldehyde and purifying the air which ensures clean air indoors. The claimis misleading by ambiguity and exaggeration.
- International Tractors Limited (Sonalika Tractors): The print advertisement’s claim “World No.1 plant” was not substantiated with any verifiable comparative data of the advertiser’s plant and other similar plants in the World, to prove that it is in leadership position (No.1) than the rest in manufacturing tractors, or through a third party validation. The source for the claim was not indicated in the advertisement. The claim is misleading by exaggeration.