Congratulations on taking over as the new chief of ASCI. I hope you have a great innings.
I am writing you this open letter on a subject that I have previously broached with ASCI. I had written a piece in Campaign addressed to Abati Sankaranarayanan, chairperson of ASCI, in April, 2018 pointing out to her that there was rampant mis-use of the guidelines on surrogate advertising, and that ASCI must intervene as the industry watchdog. I had pointed out to her that, “The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, Rule 7(2)(viii) clearly prohibits the direct or indirect promotion and advertisement of & cigarettes, tobacco products, wine, alcohol, liquor or other intoxicants & where in the advertisement are not to use particular colors and layout or presentations associated with the prohibited products. In all of the ads referred above (already mentioned in that article), exact logos and styles of the alcohol brands are being used as is. There is no attempt to hide. Or pretend. Or even ‘pass off’. Brand graphics of the liquor brands are being used in toto by them in the so called surrogates. But the reality is that the surrogates actually do not exist.”
In the ongoing IPL too there are liquor ads aplenty… Royal Stag (selling Mark of Purity), Sterling Reserve (packaged water), Chivas (music CDs), Blenders Pride (music CDs) and more… there are also SNJ 10000 (beer) and British Empire (beer) logos on team jerseys. I won’t go into the claims of each of the brands but I did check for Chivas music CDs in stores in Chandigarh, Delhi, Jaipur, Bangalore and Mumbai but found none on sale. I went on-line to check availability. Flipkart’s website did have a listing for Chivas music CDs but said they were sold-out. Amazon had two sets in stock but when I tried to place an order, the site declined the transaction citing a ‘technical error’.
You have been an advertising stalwart. So, I don’t have to explain to you that Chivas music CDs are nothing but a ‘pass off’, that too one that almost doesn’t exist. And the issues on logos and graphics contravening the provisions of The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, Rule 7(2)(viii) remain the same.
Since Abati Sankaranarayanan did not respond to my article, my daughter, a lawyer by training, decided to actually follow ASCI protocols and try to get ASCI to act. Nothing came off her efforts, except visible collusion by the ASCI team in negating the efforts of the complainant in bringing the errant brands to book.
When you took over as chairman of ASCI earlier this year, in your acceptance PR, you stated, “… And with the recent formation of the Central Consumer Protection Authority constituted by the government, self-regulation will be even more crucial in promoting consumer confidence and trust.”
I think the time has come to deliver on that promise.
I was on the ASCI board many years ago. Things were different. I think vested interests have ensured that these days ASCI willingly allows transgressions of the guidelines; refuses to take suo moto action against those that are deliberately running mis-leading advertising; and brow-beats complainants as evidenced by Carol Goyal’s piece in Campaign (where exact mails are reproduced n to the benefit of liquor brands who continue to advertise with impunity, and without any fear of the law.
As the new ASCI chairman I would request you to:
- Examine all ‘surrogate ads’ currently airing on the IPL… easily identifiable, and running with reasonable frequency, hence difficult to miss.
- Check out if their ‘surrogates’ satisfy guidelines
- Whether they have FSSAI, MIB and CBFC clearances
- If these ads are fit cases for you to exercise ‘self-regulation’
- Whether the new CCPA would allow such ads to air?
I trust you will act in the best interest of the media and advertising industry, and as you yourself have gone on record to say, do your duty towards, “promoting consumer confidence and trust”.
Thanks and regards,
Dr. Sandeep Goyal
Chairman Mogae Media
Former president Rediffusion DY&R
Former group CEO Zee Telefilms
Former chairman Dentsu India
12 October, 2020
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