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Adworld reacts to Madras HC's decision on ‘obscene’ ads

While some industry leaders laud the move saying that self-regulation in advertising is a myth, others feel that the blame for promoting 'obscenity' on television shouldn't be borne by TV ads alone

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Nov 30, 2020 8:13 AM
ad censorship

In a fresh development, The Madras High Court has granted interim injunction restraining the TV channels from telecasting advertisements and programmes which display obscenity in the name of doctor's advice.

A division bench of justices N Kirubakaran and B Pugalendhi stated that some condom advertisements aired after 10 pm on almost all the channels exhibit shocking pornographic content. Moreover, the judges sought response from MIB on censorship of programmes telecast on channels. However, was this move necessary and is it a step in the right direction or will it leave advertisers in a dilemma adding more roadblocks to an already highly-regulated category? 

Sandeep Goyal, Founder, Mogae Media, lauded the decision as he feels that it is imperative to formulate guidelines for endorsement of such products. He added that there have to be visible penalties including possible imprisonment as deterrents, otherwise the malaise will persist. “The Hon’ble Court is completely correct in granting restraint. Self-regulation is a myth. No one actually exercises it. Not brands, not ad agencies, not the AAAI, not ASCI, not the TV channels, not the IBF. The attempt in fact is to push the envelope till someone objects or the Law intervenes. Sad, but true. But ‘restraint’ again means repeatedly running to the Courts for making sure the objectionable stuff remains off-air. The moral fibre of the advertising business has eroded to such an extent that courts need to intervene for course correction. This is indeed sad,” he remarked.

Titus Upputuru, National Creative Director, dentsu One & Creative Head, Taproot dentsu Gurgaon, too welcomes the move. “It’s a wise decision. In today’s day and age, why don’t marketers of such products use data and target the consumers through demographic segmentation on digital medium instead of broadcasting on mass media, where even children could be watching,” Upputuru suggested.

“Some advertisements though look like promotion of  'Aphrodisiac' popularly known as 'Love Drugs', it looks like a porno film. Nudity is exhibited in those advertisements, which is punishable under Section 16 of the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1995,” the order stated. Furthermore, it stated that these advertisements or programmes, telecasted in the name of selling condoms and aphrodisiacs, inner wears, violate the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994.

Hamza Ahmad - Copy Partner, Infectious Advertising, stated that adding regulations to aphrodisiac or condom advertising will make it impossible to advertise effectively. Ahmad feels that comparing these ads to porn is a gross exaggeration. “A car commercial shows a car running, a travel commercial shows travel, so what should condom ads show? A child playing ping pong? Or a dog chasing a stick? Condom and aphrodisiac advertisements are heavily regulated, with what can and cannot be shown being written in stone. Having safe sex and healthy sex life shouldn't be seen as obscene, and ads that promote awareness should be accepted rather than persecuted,” he explained.

This is not the first time when condom advertising has come under the scanner. In 2017, The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting said condom advertisements will now be allowed only between 10 pm and 6 am to avoid exposing children to such material and to comply with government rules. The ministry told all television channels in an advisory "not to telecast the advertisements of condoms, which are for a particular age group and could be indecent/inappropriate for viewing by children".

Prathap Suthan, Managing Partner, CCO, Bang In The Middle agrees to Ahmad. “If these have been allowed to be marketed and sold as aphrodisiacs, then I think the context of these products would revolve around adult intimacy. It goes with the overall marketing arena of these products. If they have been allowed to invest money in manufacturing these, then it is within their purview to also advertise the theatre that they operate in. And that too after the prescribed 10 pm slot - which is when most children would be in bed, and when adults would want to engage in the said product consumption. It is not that they are making idli mixes or selling instant jalebis and showcasing them with a fat layer of sexual connotation. Which if it happens, should be termed as bizarre, and ought to be admonished.

Now then, it’s not that television advertising alone is the vector and carrier of all things wrapped in hints of pornography. Many songs across all Indian languages have plenty of sexual innuendos in them - either in the suggestive lyrics or in the dance movements. Many movies have explicit bedroom scenery that would make anyone feel uncomfortable especially when grandparents are around. And these are playing across channels 24/7. Without any 10 pm stricture,” Suthan opined.

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