ASCI has changed gears to become a more responsive self-regulator: Manisha Kapoor

FY2020-21 was a rough one for the advertising industry because of the turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers were vulnerable and so were brands. In this scenario, the role played by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) in protecting consumer interests was even more vital as ASCI has always been the conscience keeper of the Indian advertising industry even before the COVID-19 struck us. It has embraced all the changes and has taken a new head on towards a new journey which aims to expand its offerings and services that will help advertisers balance creativity and responsibility.

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Fresh from a series of new initiatives such as the Influencer Guidelines,, the Guidelines for Online Real Money Gaming, ASCI has unveiled a new brand identity to reflect the agenda of becoming future-facing and more inclusive.

In addition to its time tested and robust complaint management system and process, ASCI has set up three new dimensions for its future activities, which includes – Helping advertisers with services that help them “get it right”, Gearing up for the digital age, and Deployment of technology.

As a lot of movements took place in the advertising industry during the Olympics, ASCI censured brands that have been using the Tokyo Olympics 2020 medal winning athletes in their marketing communications while congratulating them on their feat, without permission from the said athletes. ASCI has said that this amounts to violating its Advertising Code.

In its recent study, ASCI also revealed that in all 332 COVID-19 related ads, which were picked up by them through consumer complaints as well as its own monitoring, only 12 of these ads were actually able to substantiate the claims they made.

In an exclusive interview with Adgully, Manisha Kapoor, Secretary General, ASCI, speaks about the purpose behind the orgainsation’s revamp, impact of its influencer guidelines on brands and social media influencers, future vision and mission of ASCI with its new brand identity and a lot more. 

What is the objective and purpose of launching ASCI’s new brand identity? When did ASCI last undergo a brand revamp?

There is a sea change in the environment. Consumers, advertisers, media, technology have all changed significantly in a way that is transformational. Consumer habits and consumption of advertising is vastly different now, and we are only seeing an acceleration of this going forward.

ASCI, too, has changed gears to become a more responsive self-regulator. We want to consolidate and strengthen our complaint management process, but we also want to proactively provide advertisers with better advice and resources to make more responsible advertising. We are in the process of fine tuning our advisory services; we have already embarked on GenderNext, which will help advertisers depict women more thoughtfully and in an aspirational way in ads.

We are embracing technology to strength our monitoring and complaint process

Hence, ASCI is building on its strengths and expertise, but adding many more dynamic ways and approaches of doing so. The logo reflects outwardly this journey that we began a few months ago. It represents a contemporary, inclusive future facing ASCI.

This is the first time we are redefining our brand identity since our journey began more than three decades ago. It encompasses the diversity of opinions and narratives as well as a variety of tools that are part of the dynamic, new communication world. Given ASCI’s growing role at a global level, the new logo also reflects a modern and future-facing thought leadership – especially because of the ubiquitousness of communication tools globally. 

How is this change going to help ASCI further strengthen its position as a responsible industry body?

The advertising world has changed drastically with the COVID-19 pandemic and ASCI has embraced this change. Every stage of life demands a new you. The change perfectly defines the transformed ASCI as it takes on a new journey at a global level and to become future-ready. The logo strongly showcases ASCI’s strength as a responsible, protective gatekeeper for consumers as well as an advisor and resource for industry. 

Does this new rebranding exercise also reflect some change in the vision and mission of ASCI?

Yes, the vision has evolved with time as explained above. What remains unchanged is ACSI’s commitment to tread the path of self-regulation with care, concern, collaboration and compliance. 

The last few days have seen a lot of conversation on brands using celebs, especially the Olympic medal winning athletes, in their ads without permission or contracts with them. How is ASCI planning to tackle this and bring in some regulations to protect the rights of celebrities?

ASCI’s take on this is that advertisements shall not, without permission from the person, firm or institution under reference, contain any reference to such person, which confers an unjustified advantage on the product advertised or tends to bring the person, firm or institution into ridicule or disrepute. If and when required to do so by ASCI, the advertiser and the agency shall produce explicit permission from the person, firm or institution to which a reference is made in the advertisement. At this point of time, we believe that the code does clarify what is acceptable. 

What does this controversy entail for moment marketing campaigns by brands? For instance, Amul has been using the likeness of celebrities and well-known personalities in its campaigns for decades without having any sponsorship deals with them. Why is moment marketing coup such a big issue now?

All brands do need to be more cautious and think deeply about the implication of what they are putting out. That is the nature of our world today, where everyone does have a voice and is willing to call out what they find unacceptable. 

Earlier this year, ASCI had launched its influencer marketing guidelines. How is the influencer marketing ecosystem shaping up since the guidelines were introduced? How have the guidelines been received by brands and social media companies?

ASCI is enthused with the overwhelming response and the spontaneity shown by Influencers and consumers in adapting the guidelines.

Since the launch of the guidelines on June 14, we have processed almost 200 complaints regarding non-disclosure of what appear to be paid promotions by influencers. Personal care and beauty was the most cited category, and the highest number of complaints were against Instagram influencers. Although disclosures have started to appear, there are many posts that are not complying as well. We have also received complaints about certain Stories on Instagram and regular posts across social media platforms. In most cases, as soon as we write to the influencers and advertisers, the posts are modified within a couple of hours. Our suo motu monitoring has begun from July 14, and this will lead to more complaints getting picked up going forward. 

What does the future roadmap look like for ASCI? What are the areas that the organisation wants to fortify in the future?

The twin principles of consumer protection and responsible creativity are the foundation of ASCI.

To these ends, we have several initiatives planned. The GenderNext study releases in a few weeks from now. We believe this would be an invaluable resource for industry, policymakers and academicians alike. There are massive investments in technology to upgrade our processes which will provide a much better experience for all our stakeholders dealing with ASCI. ASCI’s digital assets such as the website are also going to be revamped to become an extremely useful resource for anything related to self-regulation in India. Besides this, we are also looking to update our codes in a few aspects. Technology using AI is already being deployed for digital monitoring and we will strengthen that. We are looking to launch new advisory services for advertisers who may wish to do pre-production due diligence.

We will continue to offer our services and support to different governmental agencies and departments to strengthen consumer protection in the country.

So, there are a lot of exciting initiatives coming in which strengthen and broaden our role as a self-regulatory organisation.


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