Need to look at new areas of challenges for self regulation: New ASCI Head
At the board meeting of the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), held immediately after the AGM yesterday (September 14, 2017), Abanti Sankaranarayanan, Former Vice Chairman, Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC), was unanimously elected as Chairperson of the Board of ASCI. As the member of the Board of Governors for four years, Sankaranarayanan, also Chief Strategy & Corporate Affairs Officer at Diageo India, and member of its Executive Committee, is an accomplished business leader, having steered pivotal roles across functions in the consumer products and luxury industry for over two decades now.
D Shivakumar, Chairman & CEO, PepsiCo India Holdings, was elected as Vice-Chairman and Shashidhar Sinha, CEO, Media Brands, was re-appointed as the Honorary Treasurer.
Other members of the Board of Governors are:
Al Rajwani, Managing Director & Chief Executive, Procter & Gamble Hygiene and Health Care Ltd
Benoy Roychowdhury, Executive Director, HT Media Ltd
Gurmit Singh, Vice President – India Business, Oath
NS Rajan, Global Partner & Managing Director, Ketchum Sampark
Narendra Ambwani, Director, Agro Tech Foods Ltd
Prashant Singh, Managing Director, Nielsen India Region
Raj Jain, Chief Executive Officer, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd
Rohit Gupta, President - Network Sales & International Business, Sony Pictures Networks India
Sandeep Kohli, Executive Director & Vice President, Personal Care, Hindustan Unilever Ltd
SK Palekar, Adjunct Professor & Advisor - Executive Education, Institute of Management Technology
Srinivasan K. Swamy (Chairman & Managing Director, RK Swamy BBDO
Subhash Kamath, Managing Partner, BBH Comms India
Sunil Lulla, Chairman & Managing Director, Grey Group – India
SK Swamy, the outgoing Chairman, ASCI, said, “2016-17 has been an interesting year for ASCI as it marked some impressive advancements. In a noteworthy achievement, ASCI received positive re-enforcement for the role it plays as a self-regulatory body in a landmark Supreme Court Judgement. Renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with The Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA), which is currently on its third year, and the signing of two new MOUs with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the Ministry of Ayush, has collectively proven credibility ASCI enjoys with the Government. Other noteworthy aspects include ASCI being included as an Expert Committee member to look into matters pertaining to advertising of High Fat Sugar and Salt (HFSS) foods and Sugar Sweetened beverages (SSBs), and as a key stakeholder in the committee constituted by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). ASCI is now a part of the Executive Committee of International Council on Ad Self-Regulation (ICAS). Interestingly, ASCI was a Gold winner at Global EASA’s Best Practice Awards for its mobile app, a service that was introduced in 2016. Another significant step was introduction of an Independent Review Process by a retired Supreme Court/High Court Judge, when CCC decisions are sought to be reviewed by affected advertisers. Guidelines were issued relating to Celebrity endorsements of products/services given the importance consumers attach to such association. I’m delighted to have been an enabler for this year’s journey for ASCI and I’m sure the Council will take proactive steps in the cause of self-regulation in advertising.”
Incoming Chairperson, Abanti Sankaranarayanan said, “ASCI has seen a remarkable year on year progress through formalised collaborations with various regulators, notable recognitions from eminent external organisations, further facilitation of robust codes and guidelines and swifter processes to promote the cause of self-regulation in advertising. I feel privileged to be elected as Chairman of ASCI and I’m elated to take over as the torch bearer for several more successful initiatives and significantly contribute to effective self-regulation in advertising. It’s heartening to see ASCI’s relentless efforts being recognised by the judicial body, prominent regulators and government bodies and we shall take all efforts to continue to keep it so. Core to ASCI’s mission to ensure protection of the interests of consumers, through supporting Honesty, Decency, Responsibility and Fairness in Advertising, ASCI shall carry on to keep true with its consumer focused tagline, ‘So you can trust advertising’.”
During the year 2016-17, the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) constituted by ASCI as an independent body (which has majority of its members drawn from civil society members like consumer activists, lawyers, doctors, educationists) met 49 times and deliberated on complaints against a total of 2300 advertisements. Of these, complaints on 1,242 advertisements were upheld, while 454 were not upheld. The significant increase in the number of complaints as compared to 2015-16 numbers (1,389) is largely due to ASCI’s Suo Moto Monitoring project viz. National Advertisement Monitoring Services (NAMS) that was restarted in April 2016 after a gap of one year. ASCI has also started referring advertisements that the CCC considers to be, prima facie, in violation to The Drugs & Magic Remedies Act or The Drugs & Cosmetics Rules to the Ministry of Ayush or the Ministry of Health, as the case may be. This ensures that the concerned regulator is alerted about the existence of such advertisements and they can initiate prompt action. There were 373 such advertisements falling in this category.
Adgully caught up with Abanti Sankaranarayanan to know more about her new role as ASCI Chairperson, her immediate agenda, planning for a better advertising ecosystem and more. Excerpts:
As the new chairperson, what is your vision for ASCI?
My vision for ASCI is that it should continue to build on very strong foundations that it has created and it really stands for self regulation in advertising and give consumers, public and civic society the confidence that they can trust advertising.
What are the three things that top your immediate agenda?
We want to continue to build on our credibility with government bodies; the three ministries that we closely work with are FSSAI, DoCA and AYUSH. My second agenda would be to increase and expand the reach and impact of ASCI so that we have more consumers who bring in complains and more advertisers understand the ASCI code. My third agenda would be to make sure that our processes remain credible and fast in order for us to be more efficient and effective.
What more can ASCI do to promote a better advertising ecosystem?
Everything that ASCI is doing currently is ensuring we have a good advertising ecosystem, but we have to keep up with the times and continuously look at what may be new areas of challenges for self regulation. One has to constantly keep asking oneself on how do we keep in tune with the time, technology and how do we bring in new codes or guidelines.
Being from the alcohol beverage industry, how do you maintain a balance between your company’s marketing goals and the perils of alcoholism? And now as ASCI chairperson, what can the alcohol beverage industry expect from you?
ASCI has a very clear code on brand extensions and you cannot advertise alcohol and we need to and will stick on to that. I am the Chairperson of ASCI, but I cannot be biased or favouring the alcohol beverages industry. I have to stay true to my role as the ASCI Chairperson and cannot be thinking that I can relax now because it helps my industry.
Does ASCI take into consideration the complaints, trolls and views expressed on social media into consideration to upheld the ad and take action against it?
We take complains that come our way, but also Suo Moto. We monitor 100 per cent of television and 80 per cent of print. But what we aer are not doing today is social media as an advertising Suo Moto. We would access an ad on the basis of the ASCI code and not on general popular view and perception. But we are doing a lot of social listening, wherein whenever we see someone tweeting or writing about a misleading ad, ASCI replies to them asking them to lodge a complaint for the ad if they find it bothering or misleading.