In a bid to bring social-media influencers under the ambit of its guidelines, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has decided to broaden the definition of celebrities. Influencers with a fan following of 5 lakh users or more will now be considered celebrities.

The ASCI code now defines celebrities as individuals that get “compensated ₹40 lakh or equivalent value annually for appearing in advertisements or campaigns on any medium and any format or have a social media following of 5 lakh or more on any single social media handle”.

Manisha Kapoor, CEO & Secretary General, ASCI said: “We have seen a surge in misleading ads featuring celebrities. In 2022-23, ASCI processed 500 misleading ads featuring celebrities, compared to just 55 ads in 2021-22.”

This widening of definition also comes at a time when Consumer Protection Act puts the responsibility of due diligence on celebrities regarding claims made by brands that they endorse can be substantiated. This responsibility of due diligence has been put on all endorsers, whether they are celebrities or not.

“With the advent of social media and the increasing popularity of influencers on digital media, the definition of celebrities has come to change drastically. Earlier, only personalities from the world of sports or entertainment were considered celebrities. Today, however, the scenario is different. We have a range of personalities who are extremely popular on social media and share a close personal connection with consumers. These personalities affect the spending habits of consumers who trust them,” Kapoor stated. She added that to ensure protection of consumer rights ASCI decided to widen the ambit and now it includes all those personalities who have a notable influence as celebrities.

The industry self-regulatory body has guidelines for celebrities, which require advertisements featuring celebrities to not violate the ASCI code.

true testimonials

According to the ASCI code, testimonials of celebrities must reflect their genuine, recent opinion and must be based on adequate information or experience about the product or service being advertised. The guidelines also mandate that celebrities conduct due diligence to ensure that claims featured in the advertisements can be objectively verified and substantiated. Celebrities, when called upon, also need to produce evidence of due diligence.

The code also stipulates that celebrities should not participate in the advertisement of a product, treatment or remedies that are prohibited for advertising under the Drugs & Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954; and the updated Drugs & Cosmetic Act, 1940, and Rules 1945 (Schedule J).