What Indian consumers took offence to

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani | | Updated on: Jan 13, 2022
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A new report by ad body ASCI details the themes that annoyed India

Advertisements that harp on stereotypes of fair skin or body shape or create undue pressure for academic excellence can end up offending Indian consumers instead of influencing their purchase decisions.

At a time when brands are increasingly getting trolled on social media and being accused of using social causes in a shallow manner to promote themselves, the industry watchdog, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), analysed 1,759 complaints against 488 ads over the past three years to identify themes that are likely to offend consumers.

Key Triggers

The report titled “What India takes offence to” identifies several key triggers. Consumers found ads that reinforce “undesirable depictions” such as stereotypes of fair skin or body shapes “for commercial gains” to be objectionable.

For instance, the report highlights how a Levi’s jeans’ ad featuring Deepika Padukone was seen as demanding or anxiety-inducing for women since it promotes a certain body image.

It also described how an ad by WhiteHat Jr attracted complaints for creating a stressful environment for kids and parents, while a CRED ad featuring Rahul Dravid was perceived by consumers as having an adverse impact on children.

Similarly, several ads laden with innuendos and puns were seen by parents as inappropriate for children since these provoked their interest in “adult life”. For instance, complainants said Crax Rings snack’s ad exposed kids to puns and innuendos involving pregnant women.

Some consumers also found ads that made fun of what was considered to be sacred or showed “intergenerational dynamics in non-traditional ways” to be problematic. For instance, a subversive ad by Amul Macho featuring actor Vicky Kaushal that sought to legitimize the female gaze came in for censure.

Manisha Kapoor, Secretary General, ASCI said, “We have a unique vantage point to understand what people find offensive in advertising not just in terms of the nature of the complaints but also the tonality of complaints.

She added, “These insights can help advertisers plan campaigns better. These include easy fixes, such as planning media placements with greater awareness and sensitivity, and alterations to depictions that are peripheral to a film’s script but may have the potential to lead to objections. There are also instances where brands decide to stand firmly behind their advertising, particularly when it represents the core of their philosophy.”

Ads that mocked men showing them in poor light or seemed to hurt religious sentiments were also flagged by consumers as offensive. The report added that ads that depict unpleasant realities were also found to be offensive by some consumers. “Everyday realities, when depicted in an in-your-face manner, triggered complaints from consumers who preferred a more sheltered and ‘civilised’ version of realities. Showcasing death, raw meat or blood tended to raise the hackles of these complainants,” the report added.

Advertisers take note – the Indian consumer has become rather hard to please!

Published on January 12, 2022

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