How are advertisements regulated? Is there any censor board for checking ads?

Advertisements

Advertisements have become a huge part of our lives in this era and it has proved to be medium of attraction, be it for purchasing a product or getting to know a place or any service we avail. Without advertisements we would not know the real world around us. It is also true to say that advertisement is the thing that keeps us connected with the world and the time.

Terms:

Advertisement:

A picture, short film, song etc. that tries to persuade people to buy a product or service, or a piece of text that tells people about a job etc.[i]

A paid notice that tells people about a product or service[ii]

An advertisement is defined as a paid-for communication, addressed to the Public or a section of it, the purpose of which is to influence the opinions or behaviour of those to whom it is addressed. Any communication which in the normal course would be recognized as an advertisement by the general public would be included in this definition, even if it is carried free-of-charge for any reason.[iii] 

Censor Board for the regulation of advertisement:

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) similar to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is the council that regulates advertisements in India. It is pertinent to follow the guidelines given in the Code laid down by the ASCI to ensure commitment to honest advertising and fair competition in the market. This Council aims at  protection of the interests of the consumers concerned with advertising like the advertisers, media, advertising agencies and others who are involved in the creation or placement of advertisements. 

Regulation of advertisements:

ASCI ensures the maintenance and enhancement of public confidence in advertising by regulating all the advertisements and seeing that all advertisements conform to the Code of Self- Regulation which requires the advertisements to be truthful and honest representations that do not affect the interests of both the consumers and competitors, within the boundaries of the generally accepted standards of public decency and propriety, does not use any form of technique that promotes any sort of product that is either hazardous or harmful to the society or the individuals especially minors and to a degree unacceptable to the society at large, non-derogatory to the competition and with no plagiarised content ensuring that all advertisements are non-offensive to public and is fair for the competition in the market.

The purpose of the Code for Self-Regulation of Advertising content in India is to control the contents of every advertisements and to not hamper the sale of such products which may be found to be offensive, for reasons specified by people. Provided that advertisements for those products that are not themselves offensive, there will normally be no ground for objection of such products under the Code.

Regulation of specific category of advertisements:

This part of the Code governs the advertisements of specific types of advertisements to make sure that they do not portray any content that violates the object of the Code. These may be classified as advertisements for different products as under.

Guidelines for advertisements of automotive vehicles:

The advertisers are generally encouraged to depict advertisements, in any manner that promotes any safe practices like wearing helmets while driving and fastening of seat belts, non- usage of mobile phones when driving, etc.

Specifically, advertisements should not:

a) Portray any kind of violation of the Traffic Rules by the model

b) Show the model using speed in a manner that might encourage the audience towards unsafe or reckless driving that might cause harm to the driver, passengers or the general public

c) Show any form of stunt or action, that might require any sort of professional driving skills in the normal traffic conditions and if shown, which in any case should carry a caution that would draw the attention of the viewer to the depiction of such stunts.

Guidelines for qualification of Brand Extension Product or Service:

For evaluating the genuineness of any form of unrestricted product or service, brand extension of a product like liquor and tobacco, the advertising of which is prohibited by law, the ASCI has laid down the following objective criteria to be used to qualify a correct Brand Extension product or service[iv]

1. Brand Extension Product or Service must be registered with the appropriate Government authority like CENVAT/ VAT/FDA/FSSAI/TM etc.

2. (a) The availability of the product in store must be at least to 10% of the leading brand in the category that the product competes as measured in Metro Cities where the product is advertised.

OR

(b) Sales Turnover of the product or service should exceed Rs.5 Cr per annum nationally or Rs.1 Cr per annum per state where distribution has been established. [v]

3. A proper valid certificate from an independent organization or category specific association of the industry for distribution and sales turnover is be required to prove           the criteria concerned.

Guidelines for advertising food and beverages:

Advertisements or even communication involving food and beverages can have stark impact on the lives of public and their well-being in particular. It is, thus, imperative that F&B advertisements fulfil this role intended and advertisers adopt to the strict principles of self-regulation which will help prevent any misleading ideas to the general public and to their well-being.

1) Advertisements should not be misleading or deceptive. Specifically, advertisements should not mislead the consumers to believing that consumption of the advertised product would directly affect changes in intelligence, physical ability or extraordinary recognition. If such claims are made in advertisements they must be supported with substantial evidence and with required scientific basis.

2) Advertisements which include health or nutritional claims that the consumer might reasonably interpret as true shall be supported by necessary scientific evidence and such claims must meet with the requirement of the basic standards specified under the Food Safety Standards Act and Rules.

3) Advertisements should not denigrate good dietary practice or the options such as fresh fruits and vegetables that accepted dietary opinion recommends to be a part of the normal diet.

4)  Advertisements should not encourage excessive consumption or show large portions of any food or beverage in inappropriate proportions. It must show moderate consumption and reflect portion sizes suitable to the occasion or situation.

5)  Advertisements should also not degrade the importance of a healthy lifestyles or mislead with respect to the nutritive value of any food or beverage.

6)  Advertisements should not belittle the role of a proper parental care and guidance that ensures proper food choices for children.

7)  Advertisements for food or beverages unless designed nutritionally for such purpose, should not be promoted or portrayed to be a replacement for meal.

8)  Any claim made in the advertisement should not be inconsistent with the information displayed on the label or package of the food or beverage.

9)  Advertisements for food and beverages must not claim or imply any sort of endorsement by any Government Agency, professional body, independent agency or individual in a particular profession in India unless there is  prior consent from such body named.

Guidelines of Advertising for Skin Lightening or Fairness Improvement Product:

The following are the guidelines to be used while preparing and assessment of advertisements under this category.

  • The advertisement must not communicate any type of discrimination as a result of skin colour. These advertisements must not show any form of social stereotyping in a negative way on the basis of skin colour. Particularly, advertisement must not directly or impliedly show that people with darker skin are unattractive, unhappy, depressed or concerned due to their skin colour. These advertisements should also not portray an idea that people with darker skin are at a disadvantage of any kind, or are inferior, or unsuccessful in any respect of life, specifically in the aspect of being attractive to the opposite sex, in case of matrimony, placement in a job, promotions in job opportunities and other prospects.
  • In the pre-usage depiction of such product, it should be taken into consideration that the expression of the model(s) both in real and graphical representation must not be shown in negative way which is widely seen as unattractive, unhappy, depressed or concerned.
  • Advertisement must ensure to take special care not to associate the darker or lighter skin colour with any specific socio-economic strata, caste, community, religion, profession or ethnicity.
  • Advertisement must not display an sort of gender based discrimination in relation to skin colour.

Disclaimers:

Advertisements should not be aimed at distorting facts or misleading the customer by means of any sort of implication or omission as stated under Chapter I (4) of the ASCI code. Therefore, it is pertinent that any form of material claims made by the advertisements that may possess a tendency to mislead customers or which consumers would find difficult to understand made in any advertisement must be qualified or disclaimed appropriately to make sure that a prudent consumer with average intelligence would not be misled or deceived by such implication or omission.

Some guidelines with respect to disclaimers:

  • A disclaimer may specify, expand or clarify a claim in detail but must not be contradictory to the material claim. Example, if a claim is to offer the product for free, then the disclaimer should not seek any sort of payment for such product.
  • Disclaimer must not seek to conceal any sort of material information in relation to the claim or omission. Further, disclaimer with “T&C apply” must indicate the availability of such information for the reference of the consumer.
  • The disclaimer must not seek to correct a misleading claim of the advertisement. Example, if a claim of ‘lose upto 3kgs of weight’ is made, the disclaimer must not be ‘if the calorie consumption is limited to xxx per day’.
  • Other guidelines including the language, font to be used, its visibility, the voice over and so on must be according to the guidelines specified under the Code.

Advertisements under the CBFC:

Advertisements played during the screening of a film in theatres require the certification from the Central Board of Film Certification and it is necessary that apart from the films released in theatres, all trailers, advertisements and the public service messages displayed prior to the movie-screening are to be certified by the CBFC. These advertisements are governed by the CBFC Rules and not the Code of ASCI.

Further, as per the provisions of the Cinematograph rules, after a film has been certified as ‘UA’ ‘A’ or ‘S’, it is mandatory under Rule 38 that the category of Certificate is mentioned on the face of advertisements such as newspapers, hoarding, poster, trailers etc. Non mentioning of the category of certificate on the face of advertisements is an offence under the Cinematograph Act.[vi]

Conclusion:

To sum up, it could be said that laws pertaining to advertisements and their specific cause help keep a check on any sort of loss that may be caused to consumers due to such projection. It is also seen that the Advertising Standards Council of India has taken special care to provide guidelines for every type of advertisement with proper classification and also ensures that if there is any sort of disparity, the consumers may themselves approach the council with a complaint. This show that the ASCI acts as a regulating body of advertisements just like the CBFC acts as the censor board for movies. It could also be said that ACSI is the Censor Board for advertisments.

Edited by Pragash Boopal

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

Reference

[i] https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/advertisement

[ii] https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/advertisement

[iii] https://ascionline.org/index.php/ascicodes.html

[iv] Chapter III Clause 3.6 (a) of ASCI code

[v] https://ascionline.org/images/pdf/code_book.pdf

[vi] https://www.cbfcindia.gov.in/main/faqs.html