Promotional codes

Asci revises codes for more inclusiveness in ads

NEW DELHI : Any advertisement in India that discriminates against or makes fun of any gender identity, sexual orientation, body shape, age or any type of physical or mental condition, will now be considered a violation of the code set by the industry regulator, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). On Wednesday, the industry regulator said it updated its advertising code for greater inclusiveness in all brand communications through advertisements.

The current ASCI code already required that advertisements not make fun of anyone based on race, caste, creed, gender or nationality. However, the regulator said new areas of possible discrimination or derision have now been included in Chapter 3 of the advertising code. The updated code now states that “no advertising will be permitted that” makes fun of any individual or group on the basis of race, caste, color, religion, gender, body shape, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental condition, or nationality.”

A statement from the self-regulatory body says that as a forward-looking organization, ASCI ensures that its guidelines keep pace with the ever-changing society. As consumers are increasingly concerned about unfavorable portrayals of certain sections of society, this change ensures that advertising also keeps pace with these legitimate expectations.

ASCI CEO and General Secretary Manisha Kapoor said that although the clause has always existed, it has now been expanded to include different types of potential issues. The additions were made with the public discourse about them and how consumers hold others accountable for these constructs in mind.

Kapoor said ads need to be able to show all sorts of shapes and forms that actually exist, but not in a mocking way. “Depictions are welcome, we would like more diversity and inclusion in advertising, but we don’t want them to be disrespectful. The idea is not to make people look cartoonish and to put in ads just to make fun of them,” she said.

“The idea is to follow the evolution of society because that is what consumers think is important today and it is important that advertisers understand this and ensure that they meet the expectations of consumers on the how they should be represented,” Kapoor added.

Communications strategy consultant Karthik Srinivasan said he believes the updated ASCI code is quite comprehensive and extensive on paper, but its implications will only be understood when they are applied and challenged and the Decisions will be made by ASCI on such complaints.

“For example, associating laziness with a certain body shape often occurs in advertisements for cooking oil or health malt drinks, even if they don’t deride the characters. Instead, they’re used to make a bigger point about health, in a positive way. And no brand or agency worth their salt would even dream of ridiculing based on physical harm,” he said.

He added that when it comes to gender identity, there is a definite increase in the way the spectrum is portrayed in Indian advertising and it is good to see ASCI gradually adding it to the code.

With the code change, “ASCI hopes to ensure that advertising becomes more inclusive and aware of all sections of our country, and does not perpetuate certain portrayals that have no place in a progressive society,” said said Kapoor. code have been approved by the board recently.

ASCI seeks to ensure that all advertisements comply with its Self-Regulatory Code, which requires advertisements to be legal, decent, honest and truthful and not dangerous or harmful while respecting fair competition. ASCI investigates complaints in media such as print, TV, radio, billboards, text messages, emails, internet/website, product packaging, brochures, promotional materials and materials point of sale.

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