A Rude Splash In The Face Of Parched Village India

IN Media Practice | 31/08/2002
A Rude Splash In The Face Of Parched Village India

A Rude Splash In The Face Of Parched Village India

By Vasuki Belavadi

Insensitive advertisements for Liril and Kinley raise the question of who will bell the feckless advertiser? The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), entertains complaints regarding ads that are misleading, unfair or insensitive. But when it has asked companies to withdraw ads in the past, the courts have overturned its strictures.

Surfing on television between breaks can be quite an exasperating experience these days, thanks to some crass advertisements. One can forgive an advertisement for being silly or unimaginative (levels of creativity are anyway plunging). However, how can one condone advertisements that are insensitive?

Take the latest Liril soap advertisement for example. It shows a girl wearing something that resembles clothes, in a desert with a cake of Liril in her hand. A group of women, who have obviously trudged long distances to get a potful of water, is returning home. This girl obstructs their way and refuses to budge. The women throw water at her one after the other. The girl walks away ¿fresh¿ with the cake still in her hands. It seems like the creators of this advertisement did not give even a single thought to the difficulties that women in arid and semi-arid regions face. Their idea of selling Liril: Get fresh at the expense of hard-working women. If this is not rubbing salt into injury, then what else is?

In the same category you are presented the Kinley route to water supply in our villages. In a country where even a Water Mission has failed to deliver potable water, the new saviour is Coca Cola¿s bottled water. The advertisement conjures up the image of abundant water in villages thanks to Kinley.

David Ogilvy only advised visual surprises to grab attention, not to be insensitive. A motorcycle is equated to a girl, a skimpily clad woman applies herbal shaving cream to her man, Shahrukh Khan drives a car dangerously to urge you to buy it. The list goes on.

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), entertains complaints regarding ads that are misleading, unfair and those that hurt the sensibilities of the consumers. The complaint has to be made to the Consumers Complaint Council of the ASCI. ASCI have adopted a code for regulation in advertising, which runs into four pages. Obviously, few advertisers follow the code. By its own admission, between April 1999 and March 2000 ASCI entertained 151 complaints of which 86 were upheld, 64 not upheld and one dismissed as a non-issue. Its report also states that as many as 15 advertisers failed to provide assurance of compliance.

ASCI is a voluntary body of advertisers and not like the Press Council of India. The future of the Press Council of India, which was a result of the Press Council of India Act 1978 and entertains complaints against the press, itself is uncertain. So one can imagine the plight of ASCI !

While the Press Council can entertain complaints against any publication, ASCI cannot act on complaints received on its non-members. Complaints against Emami and Century Plyboards (India) Limited, both non-members, are cases in point. Acting on a complaint, ASCI asked Emami to withdraw its advertisement. But Emami went to court and the latter asked ASCI to restrain itself from giving effect to its orders since Emami is a non-member. The Indian Plywood Manufacturing Co. (IPMC) had filed a complaint against Century Plyboards (India) Ltd. (CPIL) that its advertisement was misleading. CPIL promptly filed a Rs. One crore damage suit against ASCI in the Bombay High Court. The court in its order said, ¿¿…no individual or company can arrogate to

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