110 objectionable ads promptly withdrawn post ASCI intervention in January
During the month of January 2020, ASCI investigated complaints against 342 advertisements, of which 110 advertisements were promptly withdrawn by the advertisers on receipt of communication from ASCI. The independent Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) of ASCI evaluated remaining 232 advertisements, of which complaints against 208 advertisements were upheld. Of these 208 advertisements, 83 belonged to the education sector, 64 belonged to the healthcare sector, eight to personal care, seven belonged to Real Estate sector, five to the food & beverages sector, and 41 were from the ‘others’ category.
ASCI exercised the “Suspension Pending Investigation” (SPI) option to fast track a complaint against an extremely offensive advertisement of an online content app. The advertisement shown as a user uploaded content involved the use of expletive and swear words as well as use of obscene language. The advertiser was instructed to pull down the objectionable advertisement within 48 hours.
ASCI also processed an intra-industry complaint against an advertisement by a pipes and fittings company featuring a famous Bollywood celebrity that misled consumers by implying that they are selling zero defect pipes. The advertisement also violated ASCI’s Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising.
An FMCG Giant, while presenting their ketchup as an accompaniment to meals was seen discrediting home cooked food and disparaging good food practices by calling it to be “boring” roti-sabji. Two popular alcohol brands were seen using surrogate advertising by promoting a music CD and travel experience, respectively.
In the cosmetic and personal care category, one large FMCG Company was found to fall foul by contravening the ASCI Guidelines for Advertising of Skin Lightening or Fairness Improvement products. These were two separate advertisements of their cosmetic bleach brands. Another FMCG company misled consumers by claiming that its soap was recommended by Doctors and is capable of reducing risk of skin problems by up to 95%.
A legacy brand with their sports motorcycle portrayed dangerous acts and manifested a disregard for safety as the visuals were likely to encourage minors to emulate such acts which could cause harm or injury.
For the month of January, the CCC saw misleading advertisements of several IVF hospitals and Fertility clinics guaranteeing success and claiming to be the best. There were also a number of real estate advertisements making leadership claims which were unsubstantiated.
The advertisements given below were complained against by the general public or by industry members. Of the 57 advertisements complained against, 16 advertisements were promptly withdrawn by the advertiser on receiving communication from ASCI. For the remaining 41 advertisements, complaints against 18 advertisements were upheld by the CCC. Three advertisement belonged to the Education sector, one from the F&B, and 14 from the others category. 23 advertisements were not considered to be objectionable or in contravention of the ASCI code.
Complaints against advertisements of the educational institutes listed below are UPHELD mainly because of misleading, unsubstantiated claims /AND violation of ASCI’s Guidelines for Advertising of Educational Institutions and Programs
- St. Wilfred’s Group of Colleges: The advertising hoarding claim translated from Hindi “The only college to provide government job” was not substantiated.
- CL Educate Ltd (CLAT Test Series): The facebook advertisement’s claim, “Legal has Lost its Edge, CLAT is possible only with CL-LST” was false and misleading by exaggeration and implication. The claim is likely to lead to widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers including students.
Food & Beverage
Hindustan Unilever Limited- Kissan Ketchup: The advertisement’s claim "boring roti-sabji ko banaiye yummy kissan roll" is misleading. It was observed that while the CCC agreed with the advertiser’s submission that Ketchup, like a condiment, enhances the specific tastes of the dish, thereby making it appealing to the children. However, calling out regular “roti-subji” as boring was considered to be discrediting home cooked food and also disparaging good food practises. The advertisement also contravened the ASCI Guidelines on Advertising of Food & Beverages.
Others - Suspension Pending Investigation (SPI)
ASCI as per its Articles of Association requires that “In exceptional circumstances when it appears, prima facie that an advertisement is in serious breach of the Code and its continued transmission on / through / by any medium causes or has the effect of causing public harm and / or injury or its continuation is against public interest, then the company would, pending investigation forthwith direct the advertiser / the advertising agency / the media buying agency and the media concerned to suspend the advertisement. ” The following digital advertisement by Kwai Technology for UVideo app was taken up on SPI basis.
- Kwai Technology India Private Limited (Uvideo): The YouTube internet promo scenes were found objectionable, - especially as these were accessible to all regardless of age. Several scenes from the advertisement involved use expletive and swear words as well as use of obscene language. The advertisement was considered vulgar and repulsive, which, in the light of generally prevailing standards of decency and proprietary, would have caused grave and widespread offence to general public.
- Bajaj Auto Ltd (Bajaj Pulsar): The television and YouTube advertisement’s showing the following visuals were found to be objectionable 1) boy seated on a trolley and speeding in it in a supermarket store, 2) boy dressed in superman costume jumping off a diving platform into an isolated swimming pool with no lifeguard shown, 3) boys shown to be standing on a water slide and as a result slipping and tumbling in a water resort. The CCC concluded that these actions portray dangerous acts and manifest a disregard for safety. The visuals are also likely to encourage minors to emulate such acts which could cause harm or injury.
SUO MOTU Surveillance by ASCI FOR MISLEADING ADVERTISEMENTS
The advertisements listed below were picked up through ASCI’s Suo Motu surveillance of Print and TV media through the National Advertisement Monitoring Services (NAMS) project. Out of 285 advertisements that were picked, in 94 cases the advertisers promptly confirmed that the advertisements were being withdrawn post receiving the ASCI communication. Of the 191 advertisements examined by the CCC, 190 were considered to be misleading. Of these 190 advertisements, 80 belonged to the Education sector, 64 advertisements belonged to the Healthcare sector, eight belonged to the Personal Care category, seven were from Real Estate, four belonged to the F&B category, and 27 fell in the “Others” category.
The following advertisements violated ASCI’s Guidelines for Advertising of Educational Institutions and Programs
- Central Academy Senior Secondary School: The print advertisement’s claim “The Largest Chain of Schools in India” was not substantiated with any verifiable comparative data of the advertiser’s chain of schools and other institutes having a chain of schools in India, to prove that their chain of schools is larger than all the rest, or through an audited report or third-party validation.
- Pariksha Guru Career Academy: The print advertisement’s claim “First Choice for Government Job”, was not substantiated with any market survey data, or with verifiable comparative data of the advertiser’s institute and other similar institutes, to prove that the advertiser’s institute was considered as the first choice by students for seeking government jobs.
IVF Hospitals / Fertility clinics
- Dr. Kavita IVF Centre: The print advertisement’s claim “Get Rid of All Infertility Problem” was not substantiated. The advertiser did not provide any details of the treatment procedure for treating infertility problems, nor any details regarding the medicines and their approval status by the regulatory authorities. The second claim “Dream to Become Parents will Come True”, when seen in conjunction with the visual implied cure for infertility was also misleading.
- Mothers Lap IVF Centre: The print advertisement’s claim “Till now, more than 4500 Childless Couples Have Been Blessed With the Happiness of Parenthood” was not substantiated with any supporting evidence or through a third-party validation nor did they provide any market survey or comparative data versus other similar service providers to prove that their network is larger than other similar organizations or through an audited report or third-party validation. The advertiser should have provided an independent audit or a CA certificate supporting these details. The headline “har aangan aaye nanha mehmaan” (let every home have a child) was ambiguous and implied assurance of success.
Healthcare - Others
- 91 Streets Media Technologies Pvt. Ltd – PharmEasy: The television advertisement’s claim “Trusted by 50 Lac + Customers” was not substantiated. The advertiser did not provide any verifiable data or market/consumer survey data to support the claim nor was the claim backed by any audited report or independent third party validation. The advertiser has relied on the fact that their online services are availed their 50 lakhs registered users as the basis for claiming “trusted by…”. The CCC did not agree with the advertiser’s contentions of referring to this data as the basis of claim substantiation. It was not clear if all the 50 lakh+ customers were one time users or repeat customers.
- HealthCare Global Enterprises Ltd- HCG Eco Cancer Centre: The television advertisement’s claim " The largest network of Cancer Centres in India" was misleading as the advertiser did not provide any verifiable comparative claim support data to prove the mentioned claim. The CCC was of the opinion that the advertisement talks about the largest network of cancer centres in India and not the largest network of privately owned Cancer centres in India. It was observed that the National Cancer Gird (NCG) – is a union of cancer centres which includes hospitals – Govt Pvt and NGOs, has over 190 centres much larger than the advertiser stated (i.e. 26 cancer centres across India). The advertisement claim also contravened ASCI guidelines on Disclaimers in Advertising.
- Dabur India Ltd. (Oxylife Natural Radiance 5 Creme Bleach): The television advertisement’s claim in the voiceover as translated from Hindi “With Fairness get Flawless skin” was considered in contravention of ASCI Guidelines for Advertising for Skin Lightening or Fairness Improvement Products. The CCC did not agree with the advertiser’s contentions that their product was not a fairness product. Firstly, the advertisement itself refers to the fairness benefit of using the product. Secondly, the advertisement shows the protagonist to be dark and sad looking who, post product use, is shown to be fair in complexion and happy which was also considered to be misleading.
- Dabur India Ltd. (FEM Fairness Naturals Bleach): The television advertisement’s claim, “Artificial chodo go natural”, “Saffron, Turmeric aur Gold se enriched...Fem Fairness Naturals…jo de naturally glowing skin” were not adequately substantiated. The advertisement is promoting Fem - a bleach product in three variants and the product has a registered trade mark `Fem Fairness Natural’. The CCC did not agree with the advertiser’s contention that the advertisement is not about “fairness” as the context of the TVC is set in the opening frames itself. The TVC disclaimer further states that “Some creams gives artificial fairness that washes off” implying that the advertised product would give the same (fairness) benefit in a different manner. The advertisement shows the protagonist to be dark and grim face who, post product use, is shown to be fair in complexion and happy. The advertiser did not provide any substantiation as to which products they were referring to by “whitening creams” and more importantly, if these products did not contribute to any skin lightening effect at physiological level. Hence stating this to be the rationale for “Artificial Chhodo” claim was not justified, more so when a chemical bleach was being positioned as “Natural”. The TVC further shows visuals of natural ingredients – Saffron, Turmeric, and Gold, and says that the bleach product is enriched with these ingredients to give natural glow. The CCC observed that the product is a chemical bleach and its action is not based on the presence of natural ingredients being depicted. Bleaching is considered as an aggressive skin de-pigmentation treatment using strong oxidising effect within a short duration. Indicating that as “Natural” and emphasizing it further with a tagline “Artificial chhodo, Go Natural” and “get glowing naturally” is misleading. The advertisement contravened ASCI Guidelines for Advertising of Skin Lightening or Fairness Improvement Products.
- Kedia Real Estate LLP (Kedia’s The Oxygen): The print advertisement’s claim “Rajasthan's Most Trusted Real Estate Brand” was not substantiated with any market survey data or with verifiable comparative data of the advertiser and other real estate companies in Rajasthan or through any independent third party validation. The advertiser did not provide any information to back the claim and to prove that they are more trusted compared to all others for their residential/commercial projects.
- SKYi Star Town: The print advertisement’s claim “Pune's Best Residential Project” was not substantiated with market survey data, or with verifiable comparative of the advertiser’s residential project and other residential projects in Pune, to prove that their residential project is better than all the rest, or through an independent third party validation.
Food and Beverages
Pernod Ricard India Pvt Ltd (Absolut Music CD): The print advertisement depicting the Absolut brand name and reference to Music CDs was considered to be a surrogate advertisement for a liquor brand - Absolut Vodka. The advertisement is misleading by implication, and has reference to the words “A Colourful World is a Colourless One. Absolut Music CDs. Born Colourless”. In addition, the advertiser did not provide the annual market sales data of the product advertised, proof of the in-store availability of the product being at least 10% of the leading brand in the category the product competes as measured in metro cities where the product is advertised, and a valid certificate from an independent organization for distribution and sales turnover. The print advertisement did not meet the requirements as per ASCI's Guidelines for Qualification of Brand Extension Product or Service and hence was in violation of the said guidelines.
United Spirits Ltd - Johnnie Walker-The Journey (#The Travelling Billboard): The print advertisement with the caption “Celebrate Responsibly” is misleading and appears to be a surrogate advertisement for Johnnie Walker Scotch Whiskey. It violated ASCI guidelines of brand extension products. It was observed that the advertiser was not able to fulfil the criteria laid down for Brand Extension products as they did not have the required supporting documents. The advertisement has reference to the words “Johnny Walker – Keep Walking” and “Celebrate Responsibly” were considered misleading by implication.
The CCC found that the claims made in the following advertisements were misleading, exploit consumers’ lack of knowledge and can lead to widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers.
- Prince Pipes And Fittings Ltd (Prince Pipes ): The advertisement on multiple platforms claims “Presenting our range of Zero Defect* products”, “Zero Defect”, “Zero Defect wala Prince” and Akshay Kumar endorsing Zero Defect symbol were not substantiated. It was observed that the claim of 'Zero Defect' carries an asterisk (*) and is indicated with the symbol™. The asterisk (*) is further qualified to mention`* Zero Defect Manufacturing Process’. However, the Zero Defect manufacturing process may not necessarily result in zero defect product because there are many variables in the entire manufacturing process. Furthermore, the advertiser did not provide a copy of the application applied with trademark registry. As proof of their product being zero defect, the advertiser provided customer complaint data of two years which showed the calls made by their customers were only enquiry, dealership based calls, and not for the product quality; the same was not adequate to conclusively prove the product being `Zero Defect’. Additionally, the advertiser did not provide any evidence to show that the celebrity had done due diligence prior to endorsement, to ensure that all description, claims and comparisons made in the TVC are capable of substantiation. The advertisement contravened ASCI’s Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising and ASCI Guidelines for Disclaimers.
- ACC Limited Water (ACC Gold Shield): The YouTube advertisement’s claim “Paani Ki No Entry” (“No entry for water”) also said in a voiceover and seen in conjunction with the visual is not substantiated and is misleading. The claim is qualified via disclaimer to mention “Based on tests for water repellency carried out at ACC’s NABL accredited laboratory”. The data presented by the advertiser only indicated that Gold Shield water shield is better that their base product in preventing water permeation. However, it does not support the claim “No entry for water” as in fact, there is a certain level of water permeation exhibited; whereas the visual in the advertisement depicts water droplets falling off the cement surface with zero permeation. This is contradictory to the test report submitted by the advertiser. The disclaimer in the YouTube advertisement was not in the same language as the audio of the advertisement hence contravened ASCI Guidelines for Disclaimers in Advertising, as well.