What’s next for self-regulation in India’s advertising industry?

The Drum 09 Sep 2020 02:29
What’s next for self-regulation in India’s advertising industry?

Manisha Kapoor, recently appointed secretary-general of the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), the premier self-regulatory body entrusted with the task of overseeing Indian advertising. Kapoor shares her plans in the new role.

When a former marketer is given the task of overseeing the regulatory framework of the advertising landscape of a complex market like India, it can be a mixed bag. Even more so if the council’s DNA is self-regulatory and voluntary. Kapoor has worked on the corporate side for many years with stints with some of the biggest corporates, like HUL and J&J, as well as on the agency side as a strategic brand consultant.

Coming from a marketing background and having been in the middle of the action around crafting marketing campaigns and brand strategies is going to come handy, Kapoor feels.

And thus, getting it right becomes especially important. At ASCI, advertisers are given every opportunity to be able to defend their claims when it is backed by good data and expert views. “The idea is to be sensitive to creative needs and interpretations, so long as they do not encroach upon the consumer’s right to truthful advertising.” Says Kapoor. The Consumer Complaints Council which is supposed to be ASCI's heart and soul, currently comprises 28 members, of which 16 are members of the civil society and 12 are advertising practitioners.

ASCI, which just completed 35 years, has often been in the centre of the news. A recent example is when the new Consumer Protection Act was announced by the Government of India and there was the buzz around how it may impact ASCI’s regulatory framework and its stature. While the detailed framework being launched by the government is still work-in-progress, Kapoor feels that the new Consumer Protection Act and all (similar) measures taken to protect consumer interests are welcome moves.

“With time, what is acceptable and what is not keeps changing. For example, in today’s situation there is acute sensitivity on health claims, and the consumer mindset has shifted. What might have been considered acceptable earlier, may not be so today," she says. The framework must be thus made sensitive and relevant to what is current - and that is an always-on iterative process.

Another challenge that a self-regulatory body like ASCI often faces is being accused of not having enough tooth and muscle to go the whole hog. By design, ASCI is a self-regulatory body formed by industry members who subscribe to the idea of responsible advertising. Kapoor points out that “the compliance rate, which is consistently above 90%” is our strength.

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