Prasad Sangameshwaran
Sep 18, 2017

Comment: Will ASCI's fence eat the crops?

The elevation of an alcohol industry executive to lead the advertising regulator raises some questions

Comment: Will ASCI's fence eat the crops?
Most industry body elections are peaceful. Even this election, went off without as much as a murmur, according to those who were present. That’s because the advertising and marketing fraternity are never known to call a spade a shovel, at least on the spot.
But last week’s announcement by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) of its latest chairperson, made many sit up and take notice. One veteran called it a case of the fence eating the crops.
Why does the appointment of Abanti Sankaranarayanan get an unfair share of attention? To be sure, she was unanimously elected as the chairperson of the Board of ASCI and she has been a member of the Board of Governors for four years, at the ASCI. Still, some questions need to be tossed up.
First, it’s the industry that she represents that’s a cause for concern. As a chief strategy and corporate affairs officer at spirits major Diageo India, Sankaranarayanan has also been the former vice chair at the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC). And the alcoholic beverage business is often on the wrong side of ASCI, with alcoholic beverages being banned from advertising in India. 
If any complaint of alcoholic beverages reaches the ASCI, it’s often for surrogate advertising. In the recent past, the reach of ASCI has been found wanting in some cases. For example, ASCI has limited jurisdiction over what content is uploaded online. In some instances, alcoholic beverage makers have been advertising with all grandeur on the online medium, sometimes with even the glass of spirits and bottle in full display. However, as one ASCi member confided, the regulator cannot do much if the ad in question is uploaded online from some other country.
For an industry that prides itself with self-regulation, Sankaranarayan’s elevation to the top post, could well mean that it’s the ASCI that now comes under the scanner.
(Prasad Sangameshwaran is the managing editor at Campaign India. He can be reached on [email protected])

Campaign India

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