ASCI processes 5532 complaints in 2021-22; education remains most violative sector

Nearly 48 per cent of complaints belonged to digital medium.

Mumbai: The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) released its annual complaints report for the period April’ 21 – March’ 22, during which it processed 5,532 advertisements across mediums including print, digital, and television. Education at 33 per cent remains the single largest violative sector, followed by health care (16 per cent), and personal care (11 per cent).

The digital ecosystem took centre stage with new categories like crypto and gaming in the top five violative categories, and nearly 48 per cent of the ads processed belong to the medium.

In 2021-22, ASCI processed a whopping 62 per cent more ads compared to the previous year, and 25 per cent more complaints. The self-regulatory body saw an overall compliance rate of 94 per cent.

While television and print ads remained in focus, ASCI greatly broadened its ambit by proactively monitoring advertising in the digital landscape. With the influencer guidelines coming into force last year, complaints against influencers constituted 29 per cent of the total grievances. Complaints regarding misleading claims in ads featuring celebrities saw a 41 per cent increase out of which a staggering 92 per cent were found to be violating ASCI’s guidelines.  

Given its focus on digital monitoring, emerging categories included the relatively new categories of virtual digital assets and online real money gaming, contributing significantly to objectionable ads at eight per cent each.

ASCI continued its proactive surveillance and 75 per cent of ads processed were picked up suo-motu. This included the AI-based monitoring that ASCI has set up for digital tracking. Complaints from consumers constituted 21 per cent of complaints, followed by intra-industry at two per cent and CSO/government complaints at 2 per cent. Out of the 5,532 total ads processed, 39 per cent were not contested by the advertiser, 55 per cent of them were found to be objectionable after investigation, and complaints against four per cent of ads were dismissed as not violating the ASCI code. 94 per cent of ads that ASCI processed needed changes so as not to violate the ASCI code.

Talking about the annual report, ASCI chairman Subhash Kamath shared: “2021-22 was the year we followed through on our promise of increasingly monitoring the digital media given the way it has been dominating the advertising landscape. We invested heavily in technology and that has worked quite well. We also upgraded our complaints system which has made it very easy for consumers to register their complaints and for advertisers to respond to it. Going ahead, we will continue to be at the forefront in understanding how best to regulate and monitor the digital frontier, even as we keep streamlining our processes to become more responsive, and more proactive.”

Sharing her thoughts about the annual report, ASCI CEO & secretary general Manisha Kapoor, said: “The ASCI team, the Consumer Complaints Council, the Honourable ex-high court judges on our review panel, and our domain experts have debated the nuances of advertising and scientificnevidence of thousands of ads to ensure that the process and outcomes are fair to both consumers as well as advertisers. Simultaneously, the constant update to our code ensures that we constantly offer guidance and transparency to consumers and advertisers on newer and emerging formats and categories. This helps in keeping self-regulation at the frontier of advertising developments.”

ASCI has also upgraded its complaints system “TARA” in order to offer a seamless experience to both consumers and advertisers in the management and resolution of complaints. Features like real-time tracking of complaints aim to make the experience similar to what one would expect from any contemporary tech platform.

Read the report here:

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