“In the last few days everything has come to a standstill for a mid-sized agency like ours. We had to release some topical ads which got delayed because we could not complete the Self-Declaration Certificate process in time as we faced errors and glitches,” said N Krishnakumar, CEO of Coimbatore-based Akarsh Advertising Consultants.

A marketing executive at a jewellery brand added, “It’s a nightmare. We have to do it all ourselves as our ad agency expressed inability. We are struggling with it.”

The new ad regime which requires Self-Declaration Certificate (SDC) directive for new advertisements is turning out to be a mixed bag for advertisers and agencies. Some players have expressed frustration at the long wait time to generate SDCs on the designated portals and said they are facing glitches leading to delays in releasing ads.

Concerns have also been raised about submitting SDCs for different versions of the same ads as well as confidentiality since sensitive details about ad creatives and products have to be detailed out.

As per the directive, which came into force on June 18, Broadcast Seva Portal is designated for generating SDCs for TV ads, while for print and internet ads the process needs to be completed on the Press Council of India site. Players said they have been constantly seeing errors while accessing these portals and also certain steps are making the process cumbersome.“

We also need to generate SDCs separately for the different sizes and versions of the same ads. Media houses are losing revenues. We have no problem in complying with the directive, but the process must be simple and digital infrastructure should be robust enough to handle the process,” Krishnakumar added. 

Siddharth Devnani, Co-Founder and MD, SoCheers pointed out that it was not business as usual. “We release 50-100 ads a day across 40-50 clients and the volumes of ad releases have been impacted. There have been glitches and it takes time but things are improving.

We are also seeing some clients in sectors such as BFSI and pharmaceutical, putting release of new ads on hold and are in wait and watch mode as they are seeking more clarity. There are also concerns around confidentiality since sensitive information about a campaign needs to be revealed for the self-declaration certificate, “he stated. 

Some believe the consistent adherence to guidelines and substantiating every claim can stifle creativity and slow down campaign launches. “There are significant privacy concerns as disclosing detailed business practices and proprietary information might expose sensitive data to competitors.

Balancing transparency with operational efficiency and safeguarding confidentiality is crucial to address these challenges and ensure the mandate’s success without hampering industry innovation,” said Yasin Hamidani, Director, Media Care Brand Solutions.

Others are hopeful that these are temporary issues and will get sorted in the coming days. “We calibrated ourselves to meet the directive as soon as it was announced. It is like going through the immigration counter when you travel to another country. Teething Glitches will be there in any new system,” said MVS Murthy, CMO of Federal Bank.

As of Sunday afternoon, over 23,400 SDCs had been generated on the Press Council of India site for print and internet ads.  All eyes are on the next hearing of the misleading ads case (Indian Medical Association vs Union of India) slated for July 9.

As Industry bodies such as Indian Newspaper Society (INS)and Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) have moved court with impleadment petitions in the case to seek clarity on the SDC directive.

Meanwhile ,some firms have also come out with tools to aid companies in the SDC mechanisms. Social Pill said it has developed a custom AI tool built on ChatGPT, which enables advertisers to reduce time taken to fill in self-declaration forms.

Also, mFilterIt said its TickR, an AI-powered solution, simplifies creative compliance by offering automated checks for adherence to various guidelines.