Campaign India Team
Oct 04, 2023

Should brand endorsers be held liable for misleading claims?

SOUNDING BOARD: There are calls to fine Amitabh Bachchan after he appeared in a 'misleading advertisement' from Flipkart. We ask experts to state whether this is a fair call or whether the brand should be solely bearing the brunt

Should brand endorsers be held liable for misleading claims?
In the wake of the latest controversy involving a Flipkart advertisement featuring Amitabh Bachchan, which has got the traders' body up in arms against the e-comm giant and the actor, the Confederation of All India traders (CAIT) has filed a complaint with the ministry of consumer affairs demanding legal action against both the parties, including the actor. They accused the ad of making misleading and false claims about the prices offered on the e-commerce platform during its upcoming ‘Big Billion’ sale.
 
This once again puts the scanner on the question of whether celebrities should be held liable for the advertisements they endorse. On whom does the onus lie - the brand, the celeb ambassador, or both?
 
Shavon Barua, an independent brand curator,  former chief client officer, PHD India
 
As always, every time any brand controversy stirs up, especially about an advertisement the brand has put up with a celebrity, no punches are held back for the celebrity. Somehow the role of the brand owners and their agencies who create these advertisements seem to be diluted in comparison.  The question to ask is who is being taken for a ride in this collab of misleading/ unethical communication? Mostly the consumers.  Yes, the real onus lies with the brand owner and their agencies but there are laws of the land, Consumer Protection Act to be precise, which have laid out rules for due diligence, but they are more than often flouted. In fact, in many cases bad PR is also seen as PR! 
 
Frankly, all three in equal measure should be held responsible. No one is that naïve. Not the brand owner who lives and breathes ROI, not the agency who’s job it is to not to create shoddy misleading work and to an extent the celebrity, who takes millions as fees, has multiple dos and don’ts, will scrutinise every tiny detail, and throw a variety of tantrums in most cases. So why is it that when it comes to messaging each one goes into denial?
 
You flout /mislead, you will face the consequences. The only caveat should be it should not be sporadic. The rules must not turn into red tape and open doors for corruption. We all appreciate creative and interesting advertising narratives, it cannot be false.
 
While the debate is on, the Big B sale and icon both have got their share of eyeballs!
 
Sandeep Goyal, group chairperson, Rediffusion
 
Most celebrities read off a script. I think Mr. Bachchan too must have just read off whatever was given to him. Most celebrities do not really getting into checking the veracity of statements or copy at a micro level.
 
Specific to this issue, the CAIT claim is also only a claim. One cannot be sure that what they are stating is also the gospel truth. Till the absolute truth is established through an independent source, both parties at best have stated claims, no more.
 
CAIT has been able to stir up a controversy - their purpose is largely served. Also the igniting of a debate will force manufacturers to be vigilant to avoid a possible backlash.
 
In all of this Mr. Bachchan has become the central piece of the controversy without much to contribute to the entire situation. Is he guilty. Maybe by default, at worst.
 

Manisha Kapoor, CEO, The Advertising Standards Council of India

 

The ASCI code makes it clear that any claims or comparisons made in advertisements must be truthful and should be capable of substantiation. Additionally, ASCI's guidelines for celebrities in advertising require celebrities to do due diligence to ensure that all claims and comparisons made in the advertisements they appear in should be capable of substantiation and not be deceptive.

 

The specific case has reportedly been referred to the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA). The CCPA guidelines make it mandatory for advertisements not to make misleading statements in advertisements. In addition, the Consumer Protection Act also provides for fines or suspension of endorsers in case they have not done due diligence. After due investigation and ascertaining the necessary facts, the CCPA may take appropriate action as per its process.

 

Due diligence by celebrities is an important aspect that needs to be ingrained in the system. ASCI’s data suggests a huge increase in misleading ads that feature celebrities. Very few celebrities do due diligence, and many of them just take an indemnity from the advertiser in case the ad gets into trouble. Such actions may protect the celebrity financially but do not count towards the fulfilment of their responsibility towards consumers.

 
Valerie Pinto, CEO, Weber Shandwick
 
The onus lies on every participant in the ad. Fake claims only go that far. In the end what matters is honest communication from the heart backed by fact. Consumers today want honesty and authenticity more than ever. It’s the responsibility of the brand to give them that.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Mahek Sisodia, manager - influencer relations and client servicing, Chttrbox
 
In my experience, the onus in most cases would lie on both parties. There is always a choice given to the celebrity weather they want to endorse a particular brand or do a particular campaign. The celebrity or their team should do a thorough research on the brand and advise the celebrity about any concerns for the same though its often difficult to understand how truthful the brands are about the claims they make but if aware about any such controversies in the past it is always advised to not be related to such brands by the teams of the celebrity. But again in the end the final call is always taken by the celebrity themselves
 
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Source:
Campaign India

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