Healthcare, illegal betting apps, personal care, traditional education and food & beverage emerged as the top five violative sectors in terms of ads, according to the Annual Complaints Report FY24 released by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). The self-regulatory body processed  10,093 complaints against ads in 2023-24, up 12.75 per cent over the previous year.

Overall, ASCI’s Complaint Council scrutinised 8229 ads. Of this, 98 per cent of the ads processed required some modifications, while 49 per cent were not contested and were promptly withdrawn or modified by brands.

Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary General of ASCI, told businessline, “ Healthcare has been among the top three violative sectors in the past few years. It has been a sector of concern for misleading ads that abuse the trust of consumers. We looked at a total of 1,575 ads, out of which 99 per cent required modification.”

Of this, 1,249 ads were processed for violating the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act. Meanwhile, 190 ads were from clinics,hospitals,wellness centres making “tall misleading claims” about their services, care and cure for chronic conditions. 129 ads were from pharma companies for drugs and medicines with misleading claims around prevention and cure, superior quality, and leadership.

Kapoor said in 2023-24 period ASCI saw an overall increase in the ads, which were found to be in direct violation of laws and reported 3,200 ads directly to various regulators.

This included 1,311 ads of illegal offshore betting app that were reported to the I & B Ministry, making it the second most violatitive sector with a 17 per cent share. Personal care ads accounted for 13 per cent of ads scrutinised, followed by conventional education (12 per cent ), food and beverage (10 per cent ), and real estate (7 per cent).

Kapoor also pointed out that for the first time babycare emerged among the top ten violative categories largely owing to influencers promoting products and services without disclosing material connections. “81 per cent of the 91 ads processed were from influencer promotions without disclosures,” she said.

Celebrities continued to be seen in ads that violated the ASCI code. “ASCI processed complaints against 101 ads featuring celebrities, 91% of which required modification. 104 celebrities appearing in these 101 ads were found to be in violation of the celebrity guidelines as they could not provide any evidence of due diligence,” the report noted. 

Overall, digital ads  accounted for 85 per cent of ads processed and were also found to be lower in compliance compared to TV and print mediums. The ASCI report noted that this raises “serious concerns” about the online safety of consumers. Nearly, 94 per cent of the ads that were scrutinsed were picked up suo-moto by ASCI, it added.