Educational sector to have ad guidelines from 1 December

MUMBAI: The advertising code for the educational sector, prescribed by the Advertising Standards Council of India (Asci), will come into force from 1 December.

Advertisements of educational institutes, coaching classes and educational programmes will be governed by these specific guidelines.

Introducing the draft code two months back, Asci has made ready the final set of guidelines that are to be implemented across the country.

The apex self-regulatory body for advertising content has introduced four sub-clauses into the code, based on the feedback and inputs received from general public and educational institutions.
Some of the suggestions from masses are indicative of real life situations of misleading advertisements. Most of these include ads claiming high ranking, building and infrastructure, students’ testimonials and job placements.

Says Asci chairman Rajiv Dube, "Education is a sector that is critical to the country’s future. We received a number of suggestions and inputs on the draft guidelines, largely from lay citizens and institutes. Such a response reinforced the importance we placed on the education sector and the need to treat it as a special case. We now know that our belief is a major public concern too, and sincerely hope that the code will reduce incidences of wrongful advertising in the education sector."

Creative agencies have welcomed the guidelines, stating that misleading ads could destroy the careers of youngesters.

Says Leo Burnett chairman and CEO Arvind Sharma, "Asci has a crucial role to play in ensuring that there is fairness and accuracy in these ads. Education sector is one of the top five spenders in FY‘2010. So it is good that we have certain guidelines to check the factuality of these ads."
The new code prohibits ads claiming comparative ranking of institutes without giving details of the ranking organisation and the date the ranking was published.

A new clause also prohibits display of building or infrastructure from models and computer graphics, requiring institutions to show actual and existing facilities, if the facilities are shown in the ads.

The new code also attempts to clamp down on misleading testimonials of students that may not even have been part of the educational programme, exam or subject. A new clause makes it mandatory for advertisements to give exact details of students giving testimonials.

Similarly, the new code takes another technicality into consideration by asking advertisers to mention total number of students who passed out from the class, whenever they claim an absolute number of students placed in jobs.

The final set of advertising guidelines for educational institutions, among other things, prohibits institutions and programmes from claiming recognition, authorisation, accreditation, or affiliations without providing proper evidence.

The guidelines also require that the name and place of the affiliated institution which provides degrees and diplomas on behalf of the advertiser and which may not be accredited by a mandatory authority, is prominently displayed in the ad.

With the new guidelines, educational institutions will not be able to promise jobs, admissions, job promotions and salary increase, without substantiating such claims and also assuming full responsibility in the same advertisement. The proposed guidelines discourage institutions from claiming success in placements, student compensations, admission to renowned institutes, marks and rankings, and topper student testimonials unless every such claim is substantiated with evidence.

The education sector guidelines take note of the fact that a significant amount of advertising activity is currently happening in the education sector, reflecting the vast variety of educational programs being offered in the country.

Asci quoted the recent Adex report, which said that advertising by educational institutions has gone up by leaps and bounds. Last year’s figures show that 8 per cent of all advertising expenses in print media came from the educational sector. This is a significant increase compared to just a few years ago.

In the recent past, Asci has put out specific guidelines for advertisements in the automobile and food and beverage sectors.

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