If you promise “the healthiest air in the world” to buyers of your air-conditioners, you better be prepared to substantiate your claim. Otherwise, your advertisement could be junked.
If you describe a car as “sleek, feline and sophisticated” in an advertisement, and urge potential buyers to “surrender” to it, you are running the risk of treating women as commodities and your ad will be yanked off air.
Nor can your ad show an elderly person sitting inside a refrigerator and reading a newspaper — this may encourage a child to imitate the act, with fatal consequences.
Companies that resort to hyperbole in ads, beware — big brother is watching. The Advertising Standards Council of India bans ads that it thinks are not quite proper.
It either withdrew or modified in January-March this year 15 ads that breached its code, citing reasons that ranged from false quality claims to degrading women and encouraging kids to be over-adventurous. The ads were aired mainly by fast moving consumer goods, consumer electronics and automobile companies.
Advertisers that withdrew their advertisements did so because they could not support their product claims with authentic data. The list of advertisers includes LG Electronics, Philips India and Godrej HiCare. Others that were either forced to withdraw their ads or modify them include Hindustan Lever, Nestle India, Dabur India, LML, Philips India, United Breweries, Herbertsons and Bharat Petroleum.
The LG Electronics ad on LG plasma gold air conditioners said, “When you can give them the healthiest air in the world, why take chances?” The Philips India ad on its Philips Slimlite tubelight claimed, “Compared to ordinary tubelights, Philips Slimlite gives you more, lasts 30 per cent longer, saves 10 per cent electricity.” The council argued that LG and Philips need to substantiate their claims with market survey data from an independent recognised institution.
One ad that kicked up a row was Hindustan Lever’s Fair & Lovely commercial aired on Sony TV, which implied that a dark girl’s potential husband was unlucky. The campaign raised protests from women activists and the country’s largest advertiser had to modify the television commercial. According to the council, the ad highlighted the inadequacy of a physical attribute (skin colour), which could be objectionable to a large number of young women in India.
LML’s Freedom motorcycle ad, Dabur India’s (Dabur Chyawanprash) ad and Daewoo Industries’ (Daewoo refrigerator) ad were modified as they showed dangerous acts which could encourage children to imitate them, with fatal consequences.
The ads of United Breweries and Herbertsons came under the microscope of the council as both of them appeared to be surrogate ads for alcohol product brands.