India’s ad watchdog on June 28 released its ‘Complaints and Insights 2021-2022' report, which revealed that the advertisements under the education category turned out to be the biggest violators of the ad code.
Emerging categories like crypto and gaming were among the top 5 categories that violated the advertising guidelines most in 2021-22. To put it in perspective, between January and May 2022, more 400 ads were flagged by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) that violated the guidelines.
Given the surge in demand for health & wellness products and services, healthcare and personal care also popped up in the list of the sectors that violated guidelines.
Digital platform torchbearer of misleading ads
The digital ecosystem took a center stage in the report released by the ASCI as the maximum number of objectionable ads (48 percent) were published on digital; Instagram claimed lion’s share of 43 percent, followed by YouTube 28 percent, Websites 18 percent, Twitter 6 percent and Facebook 3 percent.
Influencers contributed to nearly 29% of all complaints taken up by ASCI.
Misleading ads featuring celebrities, that violated the code, jumped by 41 percent to 92 percent. As many as 94 percent of the overall ads processed demanded modifications. However, the overall voluntary compliance rate stood at 94 percent and the compliance on print and television was as high as 98 percent.
The Indian advertising industry reached a size of Rs. 70,715 crores in 2021, registering 18.6 percent growth from 2020. The industry is expected to reach Rs 93,119 crores by the end of 2023, a projected CAGR of 14.75 percent. The digital advertising industry has reached a market size of Rs 21,353 crore in 2021 from Rs 15,782 crore in 2020, recording a 35.3 percent growth, owing to the accelerated business and consumer shift towards digital. Digital media is expected to reach a market size of Rs 35,809 crore by 2023.
ASCI Chief Speaks
ASCI chief Manisha Kapoor opines that the guidelines are fairly detailed and exhaustive. Sharing her views on why they are not being adhered to, Kapoor said "If a new guideline comes in place, it serves two purposes. One it tells the industry what is okay and what is not. It tells that if a disclaimer is read fast, it is not okay. Any new guideline that comes in place, I think, the industry takes some time to internalise, understand and then start to fully comply. We make our findings transparent. The industries also need to introspect, and if they don't behave in a responsible way, then that invites greater scrutiny from all kinds of regulators, and self-regulators."
Kapoor believes that the guidelines are fairly new and we should wait for a few months before they begin to be adopted. These guidelines are subject to review based on the evolution of the consumer, the market, or other factors., she added.
Regarding influencer guidelines, Kapoor says, "we have seen a lot of people who have started to follow, and ASCI is pulling up the people who are not following. It is a matter of the industry also coming together and saying that by being honest, it will be good for us where consumers can trust those who are honest."