The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) said complaints processed during April-September 2023 increased 34 per cent (4,491) compared to the same period last year, while the number of ads processed (3,501) increased by 27 per cent. Digital media continued to be the primary source of violations and healthcare emerged as the most violative sector, it said on Wednesday. A significant increase was also seen in ads directly violating the Drug and Magic Remedies Act of 1954

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Out of 3,501 ads processed, 564 (16 per cent) were flagged as potential direct violations of the law, which represents a 22 per cent increase over the previous year. “Thirty-five per cent  of the total ads processed were not contested and were withdrawn or modified. A further 47 per cent were found violative of the ASCI Code and were recommended to be withdrawn or modified. Only 2 per cent of complaints were dismissed,” the industry self-regulatory body noted 

Of the complaints processed,  79 per cent were from digital media, which remained the primary source of violations, while print media and television contributed 17 per cent and 3 per cent, respectively, while other mediums accounted for 2 per cent of the reported violations.

Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary-General, ASCI, said, “ASCI remains committed to addressing the challenges posed by digital advertising. All stakeholders need to come together to tackle the issue of online safety of consumers given that they spend a lot of time there, and where there is a proliferation of objectionable advertising. Our constant vigilance of the online space helps call out the advertisements and brands that violate the ASCI code requiring ads to be truthful, decent and safe. We hope that the various sectors recognise the breaches and commit to more responsible advertising

In the digital advertising space, influencers contributed 22 per cent of total ads complained against at ASCI. Further, 99.4 per cent of advertisements processed for influencer guidelines were found to be in violation. 

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“Healthcare emerged as the most violative sector, constituting 21 per cent of all ads processed. The surge is attributed to a high volume of drug and medicine advertisements on digital platforms,” the ASCI report noted. 

It also referred 565 advertisements to the Ministry of AYUSH in just six months, compared to 464 ads referred in the last financial year, indicating a rise in violations. 

Consumer complaints comprised 21.3 per cent of the total complaints, while  75.4 per cent of complaints were initiated suo-motu by ASCI.