“The sensibility of Indian advertising has gone in many directions,” was how Dilip Cherian, Consulting Partner, Perfect Relations, opened the seminar, ushering in the first session on ‘Decency in Advertising – the Sensible, Sensational, Sexy – where draw the line?’
Advertising has changed with the changing times. Piyush Pandey, Executive Chairman & Creative Director, South Asia Ogilvy & Mather observed, “We operate in a changing popular culture, which has also changed.” After giving the audience a slice of the changed times from Bollywood films to ads – Delhi Belly’s Bhaag D K Bose to Beedi jalaile to the controversial Amul macho ad, the daredevil Bajaj Pulsar ads and more, he said, “ I think advertising must have a conscience.” Saying “2+2 shouldn’t make 4 mistakes” he went on to examine “what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong.” Going below the surface, going the stretch – is the answer, he said, because “people in India love ads”. “Be prudent not prude,” was his message.
Akhila Sivdas, Managing Trustee & Director CFAR observed, “ You need to respond to the response to ads .” Without mincing any words she came down strongly on “ads that sued children with adult tones” saying they are “very offensive”. She felt that “Adultification is really a problem” and that “ASCI needs to partner with well-honed consumer bodies”. But she said firmly, “There are certain issues that are non-negotiable as far as children go.” And, there are no two ways about that.
On the topic of projection of women in ads, she said,” We’re concerned about the objectification of women. Sexuality is an old theme, to get eyeballs…everyone has done it time and again.” Whether its regulation or self regulation, it needs to be looked at she pointed out. “Crimes triggered by male-dominated images,” was also something that she was worried about.
Rajiv Takru, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting raised the question, ”What is good or bad?” for “Its’ a fine line that separates the two”. On media in general, he said, “ media is a dangerous commodity, don’t undermine the reach of media.” Whether it was print, TV, radio, internet – people take it as ‘gospel truth, specially in the small towns.” How much junk is being pedaled as advertising, he observed. Comparing Indian ad scenario to the West, he said, “There is an impression that Western countries are more modern as far as freedom of expression goes. You’ll never find ads there that are half as suggestive as Indian ads.”
In the panel discussion, ‘Honesty and Truthfulness in Advertising – Defining the Black and White and Dealing with the Grey’ speaker Dinesh Dayal, Chief Operating Officer, L’Oreal remarked that there’s complexity involved in marketing to diverse products in diverse markets to diverse people. And this, he said “must be done with responsibility”. He elaborated, ”There’s always science behind our products.”
“My mandate is the consumer” said Pankaj Agarwala, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Consumer Affairs. He pointed out, “It’s the consumer’s choice, his right to be informed, then the question of compensation and prevention.” He considered the question : How do you compensate a consumer who has been duped? The ad invites someone to get into a transaction. He looked at grey ads, which quoted figures or products that touted a ProV, PUFF etc – but he questioned, do we know what they actually do for the product? But he reiterated that the interest of the consumer is foremost in the mind of the government, and he said, “We must be more proactive.”
‘F&B Advertising – promoting processed foods, nutrition or obesity’, was the concluding panel discussion. Bejon Misra, Founder, Healthy You Foundation held forth that “There are excellent laws in India, old antique laws are being modified. But are they being enforced in an effective manner?” Manu Anand, Chairman and CEO, Pepsico India observed, “Advertising is critical to the food processing industry and it should be done in a responsible manner.” And he was quick to add,” ASCI can play a good role here.”
‘Strengthening self regulation of advertising content was in focus at the seminar organised by ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of india).