The Advertising Standards Council of India has updated its “Guidelines for Disclaimers made in supporting, limiting or explaining claims made in advertisements.”
As per the updated guidelines, the disclaimer would be kept to a minimum. This is because disclaimers, which have large blocks of text and difficult words, are a deterrent to viewers who are attempting to read its contents. Advertisers should modify the headline and claim to reduce the need for further qualification through disclaimers.
In television commercials or any other video advertisement on digital media, all the disclaimers should be clearly readable to consumers. Further, there should not be more than one disclaimer in a single frame in an advertisement. The disclaimer should be restricted to two full length lines and for every line, should remain on screen for more than four seconds.
For regulatory requirements where the disclaimer exceeds two additional lines, the guidelines state that additional hold duration should be accounted for. For the purposes of calculating the duration of hold of disclaimers, all forms of text appearing on screen at any one point in time should be counted. This includes both disclaimer text and any text content in the main ad creative regardless of where it appears on screen, and whether or not it is repeated in audio.
ASCI conducted a survey with 130 consumers where it was observed that 80 percent of the respondents did not notice the disclaimer. Thirty-three percent stated that even after the provision of adequate exposure time, they could not clearly understand the disclaimers. Sixty-two percent were of the opinion that the disclaimer was excessively long.
The Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) too agreed that sometimes, the frame of the advertisement that contained the disclaimer appeared crowded, and distracted the viewer's focus.
In the disclaimer guidelines, there are certain key facets which remain unchanged.
A disclaimer could expand or clarify a claim, make qualifications, or resolve ambiguities, to explain the claim in further detail. But, it should not contradict or modify the material claim made nor contradict the main message conveyed by the advertiser. Further, it should not change the dictionary meaning of the words used in the claim as received or perceived by a consumer.
The guidelines also state that the disclaimer should not attempt to suppress material information with respect to the claim, the omission of which is likely to make the advertisement deceptive or conceal its commercial intent.
Further, a disclaimer should not attempt to correct a misleading claim made in an advertisement. A disclaimer shall be in the same language as that of the claims of the advertisement, and in case of bilingual advertisements, the disclaimer should be in the dominant language of the advertisement.
In the past three years, ASCI has processed over 800 advertisements which were found to be in violation of the disclaimer guidelines.
The ASCI code requires that suitable disclaimers be used to properly explain and support claims made in advertisements. This is in order to ensure that consumers can read all the information presented.