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ASCI launches Covid-19 advisory for advertisers

Covid-19 advertising framework

In a trendsetting movement, The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has announced a framework for Covid-19 related advertising. The advisory has been laid down by the leading Indian self-regulatory body, to safeguard consumers from a slew of misleading pandemic-related claims that many brands might be making.

The move announced by ASCI, could have far-reaching implications in providing the necessary guard-rails, especially in the current vulnerable situation.

The key caveats of the new advisory include:

Claim on virus removal

Brands have been advised to avoid claiming destruction or removal of any virus other than coronavirus (Covid-19) in order not to violate existing ASCI clauses that stop the advertisers from “either distorting facts or misleading consumers or be so framed as to abuse the trust of consumers or exploit their lack of experience and knowledge…”). If the advertisers choose to claim removal of any other virus in their advertisement, they should include a disclaimer such as “Claim not applicable to coronavirus (Covid-19)” or a similar message with the disclaimer size and position as per the Disclaimer Guideline of ASCI.

Claims on Immunity and prevention

  • Advertisers are advised to be particularly careful whilst making, directly or indirectly, claims to reduce the chances of becoming infected with coronavirus (Covid-19) or gain immunity against it. They should be able to substantiate claims of immunity against or treatment for coronavirus supported by either technical support recognised or approved by certified health authorities.
  • Products which are not internally consumed or applied to bodies, i.e., not requiring a license under the Drug & Cosmetic Act, should be particularly cautious while making claims regarding prevention of, immunity against or treatment for coronavirus unless they have claim-support data.

In addition, the advertisers of Ayurvedic, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy products and services are advised to abide by the Order of Ministry of AYUSH dated April 1, 2020, on coronavirus (Covid-19) advertisements.

Advertisers have to be more mindful

Given the pandemic-led situation and the consumer concerns around wellness and health, brands have launched many products that are catering to some of these needs and concerns. It has also led to a plethora of advertising publicising these offerings and their claims. Explaining the logic behind the new advisory, Manisha Kapoor, Secretary General, ASCI, said: “We want advertisers to be more mindful in creating advertisements and making claims related to Covid-19. We want these products and advertisements to stick to claims and promises that are well backed by adequate substantiation.” The advisory to advertisers is meant to safeguard consumers as well as to ensure the highest standards for advertising, she added.

This advisory is in line with Chapter 1 of ASCI’s code related to truthfulness and honesty of representation and, thus, the creation of consumer confidence in advertising.

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