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    ASCI Complaints Report: 85% of Objectionable Ads Are Digital, Influencer Guideline Breaches Prominent

    Digital advertisements accounted for 85 percent of the total 8,299 ads examined by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) for violating existing advertising laws, according to the organisation’s annual complaints report 2023-2024. Importantly, complaints related to violation of influencer guidelines accounted for 21 percent of the total ads processed by the ASCI.

    The ASCI noted that the compliance rate for digital ads is lower than those in print and television:

    “Monitoring the digital space comes with a multitude of challenges such as ads with shorter life spans, sometimes only 24 hours, ads that mimic content, a large number of new age D2C digital brands being born everyday and smaller hard to locate advertisers. As a result, thousands of ads created everyday get away without being monitored. The digital space is dynamic and ads continue to remain, are frequently re-published and available for public consumption with unsubstantiated claims. The compliance rate is lower, with digital ads being 75% compliant in comparison to a 97% on print and TV.”

    Healthcare was found to be the most violative sector in 2023-24, accounting for 19 percent of the total ads processed by the ASCI. This was followed by the illegal offshore betting/gambling sector (17%), personal care (13%), conventional education (12%), food and beverage (10%), and realty (7%).

    The ASCI has identified ads for investigation based on complaints from the general public, intra-industry, government, consumer organisations, and suo-motu monitoring.

    Key findings from the report:

    1. Of the 1575 healthcare-related ads examined, 86 percent appeared on the digital medium. At least 1249 ads were found to be violating the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act, 1954, and were reported to the sector regulator.

    2. Of the total ads processed, 1064 (13%) belonged to the personal care sector. Notably, 95 percent of these ads appeared on the digital medium with 55% concerning influencer disclosure violations, and 20 ads featuring celebrities were found to be misleading.

    3. In the Ed-tech sector, 57% of the 142 ads processed were again related to non-disclosure of collaborations by influencers on social media. 98% of these were digital ads, and overall, 99% were found to be misleading.

    4. The report noted that the Babycare sector is one of the top 10 violators, for the first time. Again, 81% of the 91 ads processed concerned influencer promotions without disclosure.

    5. The ASCI processed 101 ads related to celebrity endorsements, of which 91% required modification. “104 celebrities appearing in these 101 ads were found to be in violation of the celebrity guidelines as they could not provide any evidence of due diligence. It may be noted that due diligence is also a requirement under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019,” the report noted.

    6. The ASCI has reported 1249 healthcare ads to the Ministry of Ayush; 1311 illegal betting ads, 82 ads related to liquor promotions, and 65 ads concerning e-cigarettes and vapes to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.

    Violation of influencer guidelines, a cause of concern

    The ASCI report indicates that in almost every major sector, violation of influencer guidelines remains a consistent problem. It is important to note that influencers are infamously known for spreading misinformationviolating rules of conduct, and cheating consumers. Misinformation about health-related subjects has long been a nuisance across social media platforms and YouTube, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to stricter rules for creating health-related content on the internet. The ASCI findings raise questions over the effectiveness of the several influencer and sector-specific guidelines.

    In August 2023, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs released additional guidelines mandating celebrities, influencers, including virtual influencers—digitally created fictional characters—to provide clear disclaimers if they are presenting themselves as health experts or making any health-related claims.

    In January 2023, the Ministry also issued influencer guidelines which require influencers and celebrities to make necessary disclosures whenever there’s a material connection “between an advertiser and celebrity/influencer that may affect the weight or credibility of the representation made by the celebrity/influencer”.

    In conversation with MediaNama, Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary General of ASCI, has previously emphasised the accountability of influencers towards their followers when they create paid content.

    “Influencers need to understand their rights as well as responsibilities. They need to protect themselves as well as their followers. Both brands and influencers are equally liable [for misleading consumers]. They need to understand that there is a force of law that bears upon them,” Kapoor noted.

    Talking about the effectiveness of the law, she highlighted that, “While ASCI can ask for voluntary compliance, the government can enforce, get fine, it can order for certain ads to be taken off. And in the case of repeat offenders, that is where the force of the law has to come in to keep the ecosystem clean.”


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    The post ASCI Complaints Report: 85% of Objectionable Ads Are Digital, Influencer Guideline Breaches Prominent appeared first on MEDIANAMA.

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