Alternative advertising: Latest government advertising guidelines similar to ASCI, but now legally binding: experts

The latest government guidelines aimed at consumer protection seek to do a lot – from banning surrogate advertising, to setting conditions for baiting and free advertising, to regulating celebrity endorsements and also advertisements targeting children.

Still, industry experts aren’t very enthusiastic about their impact and effectiveness.

The guidelines are largely similar to the existing self-regulatory code developed by the industry body, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI).

The main difference now is that the guidelines are legally binding – and violating them carries penalties.

“All major listed companies have followed guidelines and are guided by the marketing code, so not much is going to change for them,” said Abneesh Roy, executive director of

Securities, which sees no significant impact.

The guidelines increase the liability of celebrities who endorse brands. They must exercise due diligence regarding any misleading claims and must disclose any material connection to the manufacturer or advertiser of the approved product. This is likely to make celebrities cautious about what they choose to endorse.

“Some companies have a conscious strategy of getting a celebrity to endorse their products, regardless of any celebrity use or belief in the product. Such widespread use of celebrity endorsement may diminish,” Milind said. Sarwate, an independent. director of several Indian boards of directors. “Celebrities too will see the impact of these regulations on their brand image.”

The issue of banning surrogate advertising has the potential to negatively impact alcohol players since they typically resort to such advertising for their products.

“We need to see how the issue of substitute advertising affects alcohol companies,” Roy said.

Manoj Menon, Research Manager,

, believes that the ban on alternative advertising, assuming it is actually implemented in letter and spirit, could be beneficial for current players. In the same way that a ban on baby food advertising in the 1990s benefited, he says, banning substitute advertising could benefit existing brands by raising barriers to entry.

However, experts agree on one thing: the implementation of the guidelines is key to their overall effectiveness. And there are problems in the implementation.

“Advertising is a highly subjective field. It’s difficult to come up with a strict set of regulations,” Sarwate said. “In any settlement, the ‘definitions’ are always subject to interpretation and lawyers can have a blast with it,” he said.

“Detecting a breach is not going to be an easy task,” said Jehangir Gai, a nationally award-winning consumer activist. “The mechanism itself is weak. And the way our courts and their appeal mechanism work, it can take a long time to seek redress. What consumer is really going to go through the process and pursue the complaint? Also , sometimes advertising loses its importance the moment it is legally stopped.”

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