The new ASCI code prohibits stereotypes and prejudices


Jhe Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) is a not-for-profit corporation that serves as a pro bono council to advance the cause of self-regulation in the advertising industry. It is sponsored by advertisers, media, advertising agencies, and other professional or related services related to advertising practices. ASCI’s role in regulating the advertising industry has won endorsements from several government bodies ranging from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Ashima Obhan
Senior partner
Obhan & Associates

However, the decisions of several high courts, including that of the Delhi High Court in Procter and Gamble Home Products v Hindustan Unilever Ltd, and that of the Bombay High Court in Century Plyboards v Advertising Standards Council of India, defined the limits of ASCI’s role by considering that ASCI cannot assume the powers of a civil court, issue injunctions, adjudicate litigation, or award damages. In the Century Plyboards case, the court observed that ASCI’s memorandum and bylaws provided that its code was not in competition with the law. Its rules and the way they are applied were designed to complement legal controls, not to usurp or replace them. On the other hand, the Delhi High Court in Metro Tires Limited v Advertising Standards Council of India, held that ASCI had jurisdiction to hear claims of copyright infringement.

Nevertheless, ASCI continues to be a highly influential body for both advertising industry players and consumers. For several years, the ASCI has played an important role in monitoring the extent to which commercial interests shape public perception, ensuring that consumers are not pressured into buying anti-coronavirus mattresses or strengthening biryani. immunity.

The ASCI Code for Self-Regulation of Advertising Content in India (Code) was formulated with the aim of regulating the content of advertisements to ensure that they do not violate generally accepted standards of public decency and that they are factual, intelligible, fair and responsible. The code has been appended to the tenth edition of the Press Council of India Standards of Journalistic Conduct, 2010 and is recognized by a number of other interested government bodies.

New ASCI code prohibits stereotyping and bias, Obhan & Associates
Anubhav Chakravorti
Obhan & Associates

On May 25, 2022, ASCI updated the code to ensure greater inclusion in ads. Although the code already required that advertisements be free from disparagement based on race, caste, creed, sex or nationality, new grounds of discrimination, such as gender identity, sexual orientation, body shape, age, and physical and mental conditions were added by section 3.1(b). Any such discrimination will now be considered a violation of the code. The CEO of ASCI stressed that she hopes, with the introduction of this amendment, that representations which have no place in a progressive society will cease and that advertising will become more aware and inclusive for all sections of society. population.

This well-intentioned step by ASCI is backed up by data it collected to gauge consumer sentiment. A January 2022 ASCI report, “What India Takes Offense – A Study of Complaints Received at the Advertising Standards Council of India” studied advertisements that offended the sensibilities of citizens and analyzed their messaging. underlyings. Undesirable categories included those considered to reinforce socially undesirable depictions for commercial purposes, those that hurt religious feelings, and those considered inappropriate for children but aired during prime or family time.

However, the diversity of thought that the Internet has spawned over the past decade has meant that generally accepted standards of public decency are now less homogeneous than before. The perception of these standards is an ever-evolving organic process, to which updating the code will likely contribute. With a focus on diversity and inclusion by consumers around the world, the code amendment can also be seen as a step towards bringing business interests closer to consumer sentiments.

As advertising industry giant David Ogilvy said, “I don’t know the rules of grammar… If you’re trying to persuade people to do something or buy something, it seems to me that you should use their language. ”

Ashima Obhan is a senior partner and Anubhav Chakravorty is a partner at Obhan & Associates.

Obhan & Associates

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