All of us have a pet peeve against some advertisement or the other and we wonder how such ads are even allowed to be aired or printed! Well, some people do complain, and as a result advertisers are forced to remove their ads or modify them. The ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of India) receives complaints and acts on them. The number or complaints in India are far fewer that in developed counties, but some good work is being done in this area in India too.
If you ever wondered why some ads or television commercials simply disappeared or changed, well, it’s because some enterprising soul complained. Here is a small list of some of the ads which came under the chopping block last year (January to September 2008). I have categorised the complaints under the headings of 1) unsubstantiated ads, 2) ads which lie, 3) ads which mislead, 4) ads which offend the sensibilities of people and 5) ads which can be dangerous. Here they are:
Unsubstantiated claims (Claims need to be substantiated by trials from independent and recognized institutions)
- The Dettol Soap TV commercial (TVC) had said that their product “eliminates the organisms [of cough and cold] ten times faster than other soaps” and that it also eliminates “organisms that cause gastrointestinal diseases”. Neither of these claims could be substantiated by the company and they were forced to modify their ad.
- The VLCC Shape Up Anti-Cellulite Oil and Gel made the unsubstantiated claim that “It reduces flab and firms skin. Beautiful arms and Legs in just 14 days.” By the time the ASCI demanded that the ad be withdrawn, the ad campaign had already concluded (July 2008)!
- Olay’s (Procter & Gamble) Total Effects Cream, which claimed to be India’s “best Anti-Ageing cream” in a TVC had to be withdrawn as the company could not substantiate its claim.
- The Ponds Flawless White TVC had claimed that “only the Ponds Flawless White cream can make your skin flawless in 7 days of usage.” This had to be withdrawn due to similar reasons.
- The Garnier Light Fairness and Dark Spots Prevention daily moisturizer commercial claimed that anyone using the product can get “2 times fairer in just 7 days.” The ASCI concluded that this was impossible, and the commercial had to be modified, even though there was a qualification in the ad that “individual results may vary.”
- Henkel’s Mr. White detergent had claimed that it was better than other detergents but could not produce any evidence of it, and the ad had to be modified.
- Haier ACs had a print ad which claimed that their AC’s provided “51% power savings”, along with other product claims, but the ASCI asked them to modify the ad as their claims were thought to be incorrect.
When it comes to unsubstantiated claims, cosmetic ads seem to be the worst!
Wild claims bordering on sheer lies.
- In an ad for Hyundai Verna which appeared on the company’s website, it was claimed that the car’s diesel variant “CRDI VGT” had a fuel economy of 32.8Kmpl! This wild claim could not be substantiated and in fact a customer claimed that he had not got more than 11 kmpl! This ad had to be discontinued.
- A print ad for Nai Dunia claimed that it was the “No.1 in Indore City” and the source mentioned was an unnamed “Private Survey.” But when in truth, the IRS (Indian Readership Survey) and the NRS (National Readership Survey) both showed that it was the Dainik Bhasker which was far ahead of NaiDunia. The ad had to be modified by the advertiser.
- Sanjeevan Retinopathy Clinic actually advertised that their “treatment” cures blindness, besides other things. The advertiser had to modify the advertisement.
- Another much publicized case was that of Tata Sky. They claimed that it was now offering its supersaver pack at Rs 200/- instead of Rs 300/- This was found to be an outright lie as the new, cheaper, package came without some premium channels! So all that the company was actually doing was offering a cheaper option. The company had to withdraw their TVC.
Deliberately confusing and misleading!
- Alapatt Jewellers which was advertising its 16 Gold & Certified Diamonds in a print ad, stated that “916 Purity should be there not only in the advertisement but also in the gold ornament”. This was considered to be vague and confusing and the advertiser had to withdraw this line. Their other claims that “Without hall marking there is no purity and will not get good price when exchanged” was considered misleading as 916 hallmarked gold is sold by almost all jewellers! And in any case, the exchange price is at the discretion of the jeweller and also depends on the market price.
- A TVC by Tata Teleservices showed film star Kajol helping three girls to connect to the internet by plugging in her own USB modem into their laptop and this gave the impression that this modem could connect to the internet anywhere. But the false impression given was that this modem was a “plug and play device” which it was not. There is an “installation procedure” which needed to be followed. The company was forced to withdraw this ad.
- The TVC of Gilette Victor Plus Blade was so misleading as to border on a total lie. It said that the blade lasted for 3 weeks but the fine print (which appeared too briefly on the screen to be read) said that “on the basis on one shave every 3 days.” ! This TVC had to be withdrawn.
Ads offending the sensibilities of people
- The Sisley Fall Winter Collection promotional e-mailer was found to be offensive by some. The headline said: – “You’ll melt once inside” and this was accompanied by a picture of a woman in a seductive pose. This, a complainant said, was nothing but pornography. The advertiser had to withdraw this mailer.
- A television ad of the ING Vysya Life Insurance showed the father of a young girl distressed at the cost of the higher education of his daughter. Visually this was shown by the ground breaking beneath him! In another scene, a father was shown to be distressed by the birth of a baby girl because of the financial cost involved…and again the ground was shown to be breaking underneath him. This ad was considered anti-women…but even though the ad was asked to be withdrawn, by that time the ad campaign had already ended, in February 2008.
- Parle Agro had a TV ad for Mintrox Mint in which mentally challenged people were shown in a bad light and this television commercial had to be withdrawn by the company.
- I guess most of us remember the AXE deodorant (Dark Temptation) TVC which showed a man covered with chocolate being licked and bitten by girls. This ad had to be modified. Several complaints were received against this commercial.
- Godrej’s television commercial showed a person happily inhaling the fumes of Good Knight Maha Jumbo Mosquito Coil! This ad was considered harmful for public health as these fumes contain insecticide. This TVC was withdrawn.
- There were some TV commercials which came under fire for showing dangerous driving, with warnings too fine to be noticed by consumers. One was for Thums Up, one for Kentucky Fried Chicken and one for Bajaj Pulsar. All these TVC’s had to be modified by the advertisers.
Just want to mention a really strange ad which I couldn’t put into any category. The print ad for Dabur’s SaniFresh Thick Toilet Cleaner had this headline: “Thick. The secret of my shiny, silky hair” and it was accompanied by a picture of a woman with long silky hair! Not surprisingly someone complained that this ad seemed more like an ad for a shampoo and that some vulnerable person might actually think it is an ad for a shampoo and wash her hair with Sanifresh! The ad had to be withdrawn.
I have not mentioned all of the complaints made to the ASCI (some were not upheld and this list is not available) or even all of the complaints which were upheld.
Overall though there is a dire need for more complaints from ordinary citizens. Often it is rival companies or consumer groups which file a complaint but individuals can also do it. The procedure is a simple one and the identity of the complainant is not revealed to the advertiser.
(First photo is from kunaljanu.wordpress.com and the second is copyrighted to me)
Related Reading: The lure of fake food
Is the Beauty Care Industry a fraud?
The beauty you see in glossy magazine and on screen is all fake
Children demand advertised products on Television
You can hate advertising but you need it!
Tips to avoid being cheated while shopping