Objectionable ads surge 62% in FY22; education sector leads in violations: ASCI

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani | | Updated on: Jun 28, 2022
Online real money gaming was among the ASCI’s top five categories for violative ads

Online real money gaming was among the ASCI’s top five categories for violative ads | Photo Credit: macrovector

Self-regulatory body embarks on study of edtech advertising

The education sector has attracted the maximum number of complaints of misleading ads in FY22, followed by personal care and health care.

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), which released its annual complaints report on Tuesday, said it saw a 62 per cent surge in objectionable ads in FY22 compared to the previous fiscal, while the number of complaints received was up 25 per cent. New categories such as crypto and gaming were among the top five categories that attracted complaints.

The self-regulatory industry body processed 7,631 complaints and 5,532 ads in FY22, compared to 6,096 complaints and 3,402 ads in FY21. Nearly 94 per cent of the ads were directed to make modifications, it added.

“Digital ecosystem takes centre stage — whether it is influencers who contributed to nearly 29 per cent of all complaints taken up by ASCI, the emergence of categories like crypto and gaming in the top 5 violative categories, or ASCI’s own AI-based monitoring systems,” the report added.

Education, healthcare, personal care, crypto and gaming (8 per cent) emerged as the top five categories that attracted complaints. Meanwhile, categories such as personal care ,food and beverages, crypto and online real money gaming witnessed a strong surge in the number of ads processed at ASCI compared to the previous year. “Emerging categories included the relatively new categories of virtual digital assets and online real money gaming, contributing significantly to objectionable ads at 8 per cent each,” it added.

Auditing edtech claims

On education emerging as the largest violative sector for objectionable ads, Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary General, ASCI, said, “The traditional education sector is fragmented and such ads often target local and regional audiences. They are found to make a variety of misleading claims such as job guarantees and unsubtantiated claims about being number one. As far as the edtech sector is concerned, we have now initiated a comprehensive study that is examining and auditing edtech ads and claims.”

There was a 41 per cent increase in misleading ads featuring celebrities and 92 per cent of the ads with celebrities that were processed was found violating the ASCI code.

Kapoor added that the voluntary compliance rate remains high at about 94 per cent (April-February) and the ASCI escalates cases related to non-compliant brands to various authorities including ministries and sector regulators.

The self-regulatory body said that it continues with proactive surveillance and 75 per cent of the ads processed were suo motu. This included its AI-based monitoring for digital tracking.

Surrogate ad criteria

Responding to a query on the Centre’s recent guidelines prohibiting surrogate ads, Kapoor explained that the guidelines do not prohibit brand extensions that are legitimate businesses. “The guidelines may have not clarified completely on how the distinction will be made between surrogate ads and brand extensions. But ASCI, in collaboration with I&B Ministry and CBFC, already has a criteria that defines the thresholds in terms of sales and investments that such brand extensions need to meet and this has been adopted by the Cable Network Act.” She pointed out that the Centre’s recent guidelines do state that mere use of a brand name or company (which may also be applied to goods, product or service whose advertising is prohibited or restricted) will not be considered surrogate advertisement if it is not otherwise objectionable.  

Published on June 28, 2022
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