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Top six most complained about advertising themes in India: ASCI report

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The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has launched a report detailing six trends that offend the sensibilities of Indian consumers.

For the report, ASCI mapped 1759 complaints against 488 advertisements received in the last three years.

Keeping consumer sentiment at the core, the advertising body has taken into account all complaints received, irrespective of whether the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) found them to be in violation of the relevant ASCI codes.

ASCI states that offence in advertising depends on many factors, and what offends one individual or a group may be completely harmless to another.

Manisha Kapoor, secretary general, ASCI, said the organisation is sharing the insights to help advertisers plan campaigns better and be more cognisant of consumer sentiment.

ASCI chairman Subhash Kamath added: “At ASCI, we believe our role is not just to police the narrative but to also constantly add value to the industry by guiding our members towards more responsible advertising.”

ASCI’s six core trends that influence consumer complaints are as follows:

1. Socially undesirable depictions for commercial gains

Ads that reinforced depictions of society that perpetuate unhealthy practices or beliefs for the sole purpose of commercial gains. For example, ads that promote stereotypes such as fair skin, certain body shapes or ads that create undue pressure on parents and kids in the field of education.

2. Inappropriate for children 

This category had ads, mostly viewed at prime-time, that seemingly provoked children’s interest in ‘adult life’ particularly in the idea of sexuality and physical intimacy. The complainants were largely embarrassed or concerned parents. 

3. Ads where people crossed cultural boundaries

Depiction in these ads seemed to cross boundaries set by society or to make fun of what was considered sacred in our culture. Individualist depictions, particularly of youth and women, were key triggers. Many ads that showed intergenerational dynamics in non-traditional ways were also considered problematic by some people.

4. Advertising mocking men

Ads where men were depicted in a negative or poor light, even in humorous or introspective ways, were considered offensive. 

5. Hurting religious sentiments

Ads portraying mixed religious narratives, depictions of new interpretations of traditions or the use of religious and cultural motifs in a humorous manner became a trigger point. Complainants questioned the intent of the ads and felt the need to guard against ‘conspiracies’.

6. Depicting unpleasant realities

Everyday realities depicted in an in-your-face manner triggered complaints from consumers who preferred a more sheltered and ‘civilised’ version of realities. Ads that showcased death, raw meat or blood tended to raise the hackles of these complainants.

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