ASCI lays down rules on celebrity endorsements

ASCI says celebrities should do due diligence to ensure that all description, claims, comparisons made in the advertisements they endorse are not mislead or deceptive


The Ad watchdog says it is the duty of the advertiser and the advertising agency to ensure that celebrities are aware about the ASCI code.
The Ad watchdog says it is the duty of the advertiser and the advertising agency to ensure that celebrities are aware about the ASCI code.

New Delhi: Poet and writer Javed Akhtar recently appeared in a commercial for Dr. Ortho Ayurvedic Oil and Capsules which claims to provide 100% relief from joint pain and enhance the quality of life. Under new guidelines for celebrity endorsements released by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) late on Thursday, this ad could be classified as misleading.

From now on, celebrities will be held responsible for the claims made in ads in which they appear. The council puts the onus on the advertiser and the advertising agency to ensure that celebrity brand endorsers are aware of ASCI codes.

Magical charms and pseudoscience-based products that are the staples of teleshopping channels will almost certainly fall afoul of ASCI’s guidelines. Some of these products are promoted by has-been Bollywood actors and TV actors.

Most of these ads violate the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, which prohibits the promotion of a charm of any kind alleged to possess miraculous powers for or in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of any disease in human beings. The Act also prohibits the promotion of products that claim to cure baldness and change skin colour.

“We get 100% compliance from television advertisers but teleshopping campaigns continue to be a huge grey area. Celebrities, perhaps out of ignorance, endorse products on teleshopping channels which promote self-medication and might also not be authentic,” said Shweta Purandare, secretary general, ASCI.

Jitender Dabas, chief strategy officer, McCann Worldgroup India, agrees: “Teleshopping ads must stop because they sell all kind of absurd products and celebrities should not endorse them.”

Still, Dabas says it is unfair to expect a celebrity to know the technical details of a product.

Pan masala (mouth fresheners made from betel leaf, areca nut, and which sometimes include tobacco) ads came in for special attention from the regulator, which specifically said in the new guidelines that celebrities should refrain from promoting any product that by law requires a health warning on its packaging or advertisement.

Most pan masala brands are endorsed by popular Bollywood stars including Ajay Devgn (Vimal Pan Masala), Shah Rukh Khan (Pan Vilas), Govinda (Paan-E-Shahee) and Sunny Leone (Shilajeet pan masala). The future of endorsements for such products may now be in jeopardy.

“Even if it’s surrogate advertising, celebrities should be cautious about endorsing such products. Besides, they should also be wary about promoting categories such as real estate and financial services, where claims can easily change with time. It is better to be safe than sorry,” said Srinivasan K. Swamy, chairman, ASCI.

Here are four examples of the kind of ad campaigns featuring celebrities which may face ASCI ire in the light of new guidelines:

Vimal pan masala: The advertisement shows actor Ajay Devgn consuming the pan masala. The spot ends with the warning that ‘Pan Masala consumption is injurious to health’ and it is not meant for minors. Last year, the Delhi government’s health department issued a compliance notice to Devgn for appearing in a surrogate advertisement of tobacco products.

Emami Fair and Handsome cream: The campaign featured Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan highlighted how men can get female attention if they have lighter complexion.

Lodha Amara: Lodha Group’s real estate project Amara’s ad featuring Bollywood couple Twinkle Khanna and Akshay Kumar promises a better life with amenities including ‘world-standard air quality’, a claim which is unsubstantiated.

Weight loss teleshopping ad: Television actor Apurva Agnihotri in a teleshopping show promoting Everslim 20, a herbal weight-loss formula which claims to reduce and fight obesity, a clear violation of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act.

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