Real money gaming emerged as the top violative sector in terms of advertisements, followed by education and healthcare, according to the annual complaints report for FY23 released by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI).

The report also revealed a sharp increase in the number of misleading ads featuring celebrities. 75 per cent of the violative ads were spotted on digital media raising concerns about online safety of consumers.

ASCI scrutinised 7,928 ads across print, digital, and television in FY23, an increase of nearly two folds over the last two years. Nearly 88 per cent of these complaints were taken up suo-motu by ASCI. While TV and print advertisers continued to be highly compliant, digital ads emerged as a leading violator, (with 75 per cent of ads processed being from the digital space) and also the least compliant.

As per the report, the real-money gaming industry surpassed the education sector for the first time to emerge as the most violative sector, moving from fifth to first place. “An astounding number (92 per cent ) of gaming advertisements reviewed by ASCI for FY23 were found to be not adhering to advertising guidelines for real money gaming and failed to inform consumers about the risks of financial loss and addiction,” ASCI noted.

The sector also emerged as being the least compliant with only 50 per cent of ads being modified voluntarily after they were flagged. This was even as the Information & Broadcasting Ministry released an advisory asking all players to comply with ASCI’s guidelines.

Healthcare, personal care and crypto emerged as the other key violative sectors.

Ads featuring celebs

ASCI processed 503 ads featuring celebrities from about 55 such ads in FY22, indicating a sharp increase in misleading celeb-endorsed ads. In nearly 97 per cent of these ads, celebrities failed to provide evidence of due diligence as mandated by the Consumer Protection Act. “This again is a serious issue as ads featuring celebrities have a high impact on consumers,” ASCI noted.

Ads by Ticktok Skill Games Pvt Ltd featuring MS Dhoni and Bhuvan Bam were found to be non-compliant, as were ads by Galactus Funware Technology, another gaming firm, featuring Virat Kohli and Jim Shrabh.

Ranveer Singh, Shraddha Kapoor, Sara Ali Khan, Kriti Sanon, Manoj Tiwari, and Kajal Agarwal were some of the other prominent celebrities that featured in non-compliant ads.

Influencer violations

The share of influencer violations stood at 26 per cent, with 2,039 complaints being processed against them. Categories, including personal care, food and beverage and fashion and lifestyle, topped the list of influencer-related violations.

“The digital advertising landscape is truly challenging us all and ASCI is no exception. Stepping up our surveillance through AI-based tools and a robust complaint management system has ensured that ASCI is keeping pace with this dynamic environment. Updating our codes to reflect newer consumer concerns makes sure the ASCI codes remain contemporary. We will continue to act as the conscience keeper of the Indian ad industry with transparency and future-facing expertise,” said NS Rajan, Chairman, ASCI.

Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary General, ASCI, added that the sharp increase in the number of violative gaming ads needs serious attention from the industry.“The complaints analysis for 2022–23 clearly shows that the digital medium is leading in terms of violative ads. This raises significant concerns about online consumer safety and trust. Advertisers, content creators, and platforms must come together to address this issue on an urgent basis to protect consumer interests,” she said.