We need to eliminate stereotyping in our ads: D Shivakumar, Chairman, ASCI

The newly elected Chairman on how he plans to chart a new course for the self-regulatory body, government’s intervention in regulating advertising and more.

by Misbaah Mansuri
Published - Sep 14, 2018 9:00 AM Updated: Sep 14, 2018 9:00 AM

At the recent board meeting of The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), D Shivakumar, Group Executive President, Corporate Strategy, Aditya Birla Group, was unanimously elected as the Chairman of the Board of ASCI. As a member of the Board of Governors for past three years, he has always supported self-regulation.

Shivakumar has spent over 19 years in sales, marketing and general management positions across consumer products and the luxury industry. He succeeds Abanti Sankaranarayanan, Chief Strategy and Corporate Affairs officer, Diageo India. exchange4media chatted with the newly elected Chairman on how he plans to chart a new course for the self-regulatory body, government’s intervention in regulating advertising and more.

Edited excerpts:

What are your visions for ASCI for the next one year? How do you plan to chart a new course for the body?

ASCI has been around since 1985. Advertising remains imperative in today's world. The total advertising expenditure is over Rs 70,000 crore. ASCI is a self-regulatory body. So my visions are to increase the awareness around ASCI among consumers. ASCI has excellent collaboration with Doordarshan and Department of Consumer Affairs, etc. We would be working towards getting more industry participation and towards working closely with the government, regulator and ecosystem.

Do you feel ASCI needs more power to actually take action against offenders? Critics say that the damage is already done by the time ASCI reacts.

As more sectors and people join the ASCI movement, I think we will see better compliance.

What are some of the key suggestions that have come forward on improving ASCI?

There is nothing like one key suggestion. It is evolving as and when new things come up and that will keep happening. Whether you’ve had to do with automotives or herbal medicines or insurance, as and when something comes up, people do talk about it. An area which will become significantly important is celebrity advertising. Around 50 per cent of all advertising today is celebrity advertising. There are a lot of challenges in this space from society. Brands need to worry that the celebrity is the right person. Also, there is the liability factor.

With regards to holding celebrities accountable for the products they endorse, shouldn’t brands be accountable for exploiting consumers’ insecurities?

Overall, today trust is a premium in the world. I think any type of stereotyping in advertising or communication won’t go well. We need to think about and eliminate stereotyping or any kind of edginess. Today, we have to be far more mindful about advertising and far more sensitive to the society. A number of brands might not be recognising it today, but they need to adhere to this. So it’s important for brands to be mindful of society’s boundaries.

If there is one thing that the advertising needs to address right now, what would you advise?

Advertising industry is such a large one. The heart of all advertising is creativity. I feel that digital now gives advertising far more latitude and power than ever before. The Supreme Court recently abolished Section 377. Over 20 brands took advantage of it, releasing topical ads and creatives riding the wave. Creativity and responsiveness to fast-changing events remain the biggest challenge for advertising today.

In the months gone by, is there a particular sector that you have seen attracting a larger number of complaints compared to the others?

The magic remedies and special interest groups do attract a large number of complaints.

What is your opinion on government’s intervention when it comes to the regulation of advertising? Can ASCI work in tandem with a government body?

Yes. All self-regulation has to be of influence and negotiation. We have to work in tandem with not just the government and the regulator, but also with advertising agencies, advertisers, media-houses, etc.

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