NEW DELHI: Around 80% Indian consumers do not trust advertisements and want the government to create an advertising code and regulate misleading ads, especially at a time when the country is fighting a pandemic, according to a survey conducted by online community platform LocalCircles. The survey was aimed at determining trust and accountability of ads being promoted across platforms.
A case in point is Patanjali's Coronil which the company claimed was a cure for covid-19. The AYUSH ministry has barred Patanjali Ayurveda from promoting Coronil as a cure for the disease but WhatsApp forwards about the product continue to circulate.
With more than 67,000 responses from over 220 districts across the country between 20 May and 15 June, the survey found that 75% respondents came across celebrity ads which were misleading.
Only 3% respondents admitted to trusting ads, while 25% had some trust, 48% said low and 23% said they had zero trust in advertisements.
About 30% feel that ads for cosmetic products and services are the most misleading, while 22% believed ads related to real estate were misleading, food products and supplements (15%), e-commerce (14%), health products and services (11%) and banking and financial services (5%). Consumers added that travel industry ads were also quite misleading, with promoted packages not delivering on many counts.
"We have regularly been receiving complaints on misleading ads in our online community called 'Connected Consumers' over the last 6 months...Last year, the Parliament cleared Consumer Protection Act, 2019, under which the government has to bring about an advertisement code which would be aimed at curbing misleading ads," said Sachin Taparia, founder and chairman, LocalCircles.
A majority of people (60%) said they came across ads which were vulgar in nature in the last 12 months. Be it condom ads during a cricket match or deodorant ads.
When asked whether surrogate or substitute advertising should be permitted for products like liquor, cigarette and gutka, 76% replied no.
Misleading ads also led to financial and health related burden on consumers, with 10% respondents saying they incurred financial loss and 21% admitting financial and health losses.
Indian advertising is governed by industry body Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) which does not have penal powers. Between March and April, ASCI found a total of 533 misleading of which 50 were coronavirus cure promotions.
Unlike ASCI, the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, seeks to penalise misleading ads. Manufacturers, service providers, and brand ambassadors found guilty face fines and jail terms for making misleading claims in ads.
"Pandemic or no pandemic, a misleading ad is a crime. The arena of celebrities and the type of brands they push is certainly a matter of contention. Recent legislations have seen to it that there is tighter control in this realm," said Harish Bijoor, brand strategy specialist and founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.