The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) released its annual complaints report for the period April 21 – March 22, during which it processed 5,532 advertisements across mediums including print, digital, and television. With a sharp focus on the digital domain, ASCI saw an overall compliance rate of 94%.
In 2021-22, ASCI processed 62% more ads compared to the previous year, and 25% more complaints. While television and print ads remained in focus, ASCI broadened its ambit by proactively monitoring advertising in the digital landscape. Nearly 48% of the ads processed belonged to the digital medium. With the influencer guidelines coming into force last year, complaints against influencers constituted 29% of the total grievances. Complaints regarding misleading claims in ads featuring celebrities saw a 41% increase out of which a 92% were found to be violating ASCI’s guidelines.
ASCI continued its proactive surveillance and 75% of ads processed were picked up suo-motu. This included the AI-based monitoring that ASCI has set up for digital tracking. Complaints from consumers constituted 21% of complaints, followed by intra-industry at 2% and CSO/ Government complaints at 2%. Out of the 5,532 total ads processed, 39% were not contested by the advertiser, 55% of them were found to be objectionable after investigation, and complaints against 4% of ads were dismissed as not violating the ASCI code. 94% of ads that ASCI processed needed changes so as not to violate the ASCI code.
Given its focus on digital monitoring, emerging categories included the relatively new categories of virtual digital assets and online real money gaming, contributing significantly to objectionable ads at 8% each. Education (33%), Healthcare (16%), and Personal Care (11%) were the top 3 violative categories.
ASCI has also upgraded its complaints system “TARA” in order to offer a seamless experience to both consumers and advertisers in the management and resolution of complaints. Features like real-time tracking of complaints make the experience similar to what one would expect from any contemporary tech platform.
Talking about the annual report, Subhash Kamath, Chairman, ASCI shared, “2021-22 was the year we followed through on our promise of increasingly monitoring the digital media given the way it has been dominating the advertising landscape. We invested heavily in technology and that has worked quite well. We also upgraded our complaints system which has made it very easy for consumers to register their complaints and for advertisers to respond to it. Going ahead, we will continue to be at the forefront in understanding how best to regulate and monitor the digital frontier, even as we keep streamlining our processes to become more responsive, and more proactive.”
Sharing her thoughts about the annual report, Manisha Kapoor, CEO & Secretary General, ASCI said, “The ASCI team, the Consumer Complaints Council, the Honorable ex-high court judges on our review panel, and our domain experts have debated the nuances of advertising and scientific evidence of thousands of ads to ensure that the process and outcomes are fair to both consumers as well as advertisers. Simultaneously, the constant update to our code ensures that we constantly offer guidance and transparency to consumers and advertisers on newer and emerging formats and categories. This helps in keeping self-regulation at the frontier of advertising developments.”