At the Board Meeting of The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) last week, Benoy Roychowdhury, Executive Director at HT Media Ltd. and Whole Time Director of Hindustan Media Ventures Ltd., was unanimously elected Chairman of the Board of ASCI. As a member of the Board of Governors for four years, he has represented print media and provided active support to Self-Regulation.
In an interaction with exchange4media, he speaks about the priorities for this year, roadblocks in monitoring digital advertising and spreading awareness on ASCI among common people.
What will be your key priorities for this year as ASCI Chairman?
There are four priorities, first will be education. I think if the marketers and the creative people in this country are educated about good advertising and they follow the ASCI code half the problems are solved.
We have started an e-learning portal which is actually even now started becoming popular, but we need to push this harder and have as many initiatives to educate advertisers to be more responsible when it comes to advertising.
They must understand that irresponsible or offensive advertising doesn’t serve their marketing purpose either, I can make an ad which is offensive or derogatory to women but it’ll not increase my revenue. Once marketers get this concept and start working on the ASCI guidelines it’ll solve lots of our problems.
Second thing is working with the government and we have already started it. We have the consumer affairs ministry forward all the complaints that they get. We put it through our process and give them feedback and see whether complaint against ad is justified or not.
Third is accessibility, we have started an ASCI app, already 15 % of the complaints are coming through the App. It’s better to click a picture and send rather than writing long letters.
Finally, I think the fourth objective is making ASCI better known, making our process better known and not many people know what exactly ASCI does. Some people think that the boards sit down and decides on the ads. But, there is a committee of independent people such as Marketers, Professors go through each complaint and they take the decision. Telling people about these processes in educating them is the fourth objective.
How are you making common people aware about ASCI?
I think we need some advertising campaign for sure. We have creative and media agencies and media companies as our members. I think we will have to leverage them and do some advertising ourselves. There is no better way to communicate than advertising ourselves. We had done a campaign three years back, but that was pretty small, so I think doing it aggressively will work.
Last year, we did a big seminar in Mumbai on creativity and how creativity should be within the limits of good advertising and ethical advertising. I think Mumbai is a big hub and Delhi equally is big hub for marketing agencies and marketers. May be some more seminars where younger people can attend will be a good idea, but a campaign in mass media is necessary.
What are the challenges and opportunities you foresee in coming year?
I think ASCI over the last few years has become quite significant; the challenge is some of our issues are getting into unnecessary litigation. Some people who have gone to court over decisions that have been taken through ASCI, that's one of the major challenges. We need more people within the advertising and media fraternity to understand that if we don’t depend on self-regulation then the government will come and regulate and that's not something we want.
We have changed our associations to incorporate digital, but there is so much happening in digital. Some of it is content, some is advertising, which also needs to be brought under ASCI, but ASCI is not into monitoring that in digital which gets blurred between content and advertising. We have to develop guidelines, see how we can monitor that.
What are the roadblocks you will face in order to monitor digital advertising?
I think we need more and more membership from the digital world. Luckily we have Rajan Anandan of Google on our board but I think compared to the other mediums membership, the digital world is low. The moment you become a member and adopt the guidelines it easier to monitor.
Digital is very vast. Newspaper and TV are monitored but monitoring digital is extremely difficult. We need a big membership drive from the digital sector.
What are your attempts to curb misleading advertising and how proactive is the government to these initiatives?
MIB has incorporated ASCI guideline as a part of the Cable Act, where a particular channel doesn’t comply with ASCI or taking an ad off the air where ASCI has upheld the complaint, then they are liable to be stopped from broadcasting. I think they are pretty serious about it. We don’t have similar powers in print but in television we do have these powers and in terms of the consumer affairs ministry they have portal called GAMA.
In its endeavour to address the problem of misleading advertisements, the Department of Consumer Affairs has launched this portal for registering online complaints for Grievances Against Misleading Advertisements (GAMA).
What will be your personal target for this year as an ASCI Chairman?
First is to devote as much time as it needs to this new job because I have other responsibilities for HT too.
Second, if we can have a great campaign where you know all the metrics of awareness of what ASCI does. There is awareness within the media fraternity but I think if we can get that to the common man and it becomes a known body, I think I would have achieved my personal goal for the year.