New Delhi: Investigation against 61 companies manufacturing healthcare products, including Johnson & Johnson Private Limited for its cough syrup Benadryl, is under way for misleading product advertisements in violation of the guidelines of the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI).
The ASCI investigated complaints against 415 advertisements in December 2018 and January 2019, and the advertisers ensured corrective action for 125 advertisements as soon as they received complaints from the council. The ASCI’s Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) upheld complaints against 230 advertisements among a total of 290 advertisements evaluated. Of these 230 advertisements, 106 belonged to the education sector, 61 to the healthcare sector, 32 to the food and beverages sector, nine to personal care, and 22 were from the ‘others’ category.
The ASCI in an official statement said Johnson & Johnson in the advertisement’s claim, “50 Years Doctor’s Trust" and voice-over claim, “Pachchaas saaloon se doctoron ka bharosa", was inadequately substantiated and was misleading. The survey relied upon for the claim was conducted in the year 2012, moreover the interviewed doctors had less than 20 years of clinical experience, the ASCI pointed out.
Another significant complaint was against Dr. Wellmans Homoeopathic Laboratory India Pvt Ltd over its product Arnica Hair Oil. The advertisement’s claims, “Prevents hair fall and increases hair growth" and “It gives cooling to brain and better sleep", were not substantiated with product efficacy data and were misleading, the ASCI said.
Similarly, the ASCI held that Mohak Bariatrics and Robotics’s advertisement’s claim “But now with advanced treatments like bariatric and robotic surgeries, obese people can lead a normal life", was not substantiated with supporting clinical evidence as the advertiser did not provide clinical or scientific data to prove that treatment through bariatric surgery helps obese people lead normal lives even if they revert to their pre-surgery lifestyle. The claim, “As per international guidelines all those who have uncontrolled diabetes, despite all medical measures and have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 28, can undergo this treatment", was not substantiated with any published literature references. Other noted names in healthcare are Dr. Batra’s Positive Health Clinic, Vibgyor Clinic, Prince Pharma (2Much Gold Capsules), Sanjivani Ayurved Ashram.
The most common reason for upholding complaints was unsubstantiated and exaggerated claims that exploit consumers’ lack of knowledge. “In order to create mass consumer awareness about objectionable advertisements, the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) issued an advisory for a scroll to be carried by all TV broadcasters in support of self-regulation for grievance against objectionable advertisements that refers to the ASCI," said D. Shivakumar, Chairman, ASCI. “With more and more TV channels carrying the ASCI WhatsApp number 77100 12345 in a scroll, there has been over a tenfold increase in consumers reaching out to the ASCI," he said.
Among several advertisements that were examined, the CCC observed that in two separate cases renowned cricketers were endorsing liquor brands that did not meet the ASCI Guidelines for Qualification of Brand Extension of Product or Service. Additionally, a famous Bollywood celebrity was seen endorsing two face-cream product variants of the same brand, both made absolute claims of removal of skin marks which were unsubstantiated.
Advertisements for two hair oil brands featuring celebrities were also considered misleading. Claims regarding a mosquito repellent by a Bollywood celebrity and claims regarding an online pharmacy endorsed by a cricketer were considered to be unsubstantiated.
These advertisements were in violation of ASCI guidelines on celebrities in advertising. A significant number of complaints looked into by the CCC pertained to the education sector followed by healthcare products and services.