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ASCI bats for better inclusion in advertising, to clamp down on discriminating ads

No ads will be permitted if it derides on the basis of caste, religion, gender and body type.

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Mumbai: The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has updated its code to add greater inclusivity in advertising depictions. The ASCI code already required ads to not deride anyone based on race, caste, creed, gender or nationality. However, new areas of possible discrimination or derision have now been included such as gender identity, sexual orientation, body shape, age, and physical as well as mental conditions.

Advertisements that mock or deride anyone on these bases will now be considered in violation of the ASCI Code. Talking about the changes, ASCI CEO & secretary general Manisha Kapoor said: “We have seen consumers call out ads that mock or deride people, or portray them in unfavourable ways. And it is only right that advertising becomes more inclusive and sensitive to this.”

“It is not acceptable, for example, to associate characteristics such as sluggishness with a certain body shape. Similarly, to deride someone with a physical or mental ailment, or their gender identity would now violate the ASCI code,” she continued.

“With this change, ASCI hopes to ensure that advertising becomes more inclusive and sensitised to all sections of our country, and does not perpetuate certain portrayals that have no place in a progressive society,” Kapoor added further.

The changes to the ASCI code were approved by the board recently. This clause is now updated as part of Chapter 3 about advertisements that cause harm, which reads as follows:

3.1. No advertisement shall be permitted which:

(b) Derides any individual or group based on race, caste, colour, religion, gender, body shape, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental conditions or nationality.

As a future-facing organisation, ASCI works to ensure that its guidelines keep pace with the ever-evolving society, the advertising industry watchdog said in a statement. As consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about unfavourable depictions of certain sections of society, this change ensures that advertising keeps pace with these rightful expectations.

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