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The ASCI Code

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The code for self-regulation of advertising content in India

To have a better understanding of ASCI Codes you can view or download the PDF documents below.

Introduction to ASCI

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), established in 1985, is committed to the cause
of self-regulation in advertising, ensuring the protection of the interests of consumers. ASCI
seeks to ensure that advertisements conform to its Code for Self-Regulation, which requires
advertisements to be legal, decent, honest and truthful, and not hazardous or harmful, while
observing fairness in competition.

ASCI is a voluntary self-regulation council, registered as a not-for-profit company under Section
25 of the Indian Companies Act. The sponsors of ASCI, who are its principal members, are firms
of considerable repute within the Industry in India, and comprise of advertisers, media,
advertising agencies and other professional / ancillary services connected with advertising
practices. ASCI is not a government body, nor does it formulate rules for the public or relevant
industries.

Purpose

The purpose of the Code is to control the content of advertisements, not to hamper the sale of
products which may be found offensive, for whatever reason, by some people. Provided, therefore,
that advertisements for such products are not themselves offensive, there will normally be no
ground for objection to them in terms of this Code.

For the purpose of this Code:

  1. An advertisement is defined as a paid-for communication, addressed to the
    public or a section of it, the purpose of which is to promote, directly or
    indirectly, the sale or use of goods and services to whom it is addressed.
    Any communication which in the normal course may or may not be recognised as
    advertisement by the general public, but is paid for, or owned or authorised
    by the advertiser or their advertising agency would be included in the
    definition.
  2. A product is anything which forms the subject of an advertisement, and
    includes goods, services and facilities.
  3. A consumer is any person or corporate body who is likely to be reached by
    an advertisement, whether as an ultimate consumer, in the way of trade, or
    otherwise.
  4. An advertiser is anybody, including an individual or partnership or
    corporate body or association, on whose brief the advertisement is designed,
    and on whose account the advertisement is released.
  5. An advertising agency includes all individuals, partnerships, corporate
    bodies or associations, who or which work for planning, research, creation
    or placement of advertisements, or the creation of material for
    advertisements for advertisers, or for other advertising agencies.
  6. Media owners are organisations or individuals in effective control of the
    management of media, or their agents. Media are any means used for the
    propagation of advertisements and include press, cinema, radio, television,
    hoardings, hard bills, direct mail, posters, internet, digital etc.
  7. Children are defined as persons who are below the age of 12 years
  8. Any written or graphic matter on packaging, whether unitary or bulk, or
    contained in it, is subject to this Code in the same manner as any
    advertisement in any other medium.
  9. To publish is to carry the advertisement in any media, whether by printing,
    exhibiting, broadcasting, displaying, distributing, etc.

To ensure truthfulness and honesty of representations and claims made by
advertisements, and to safeguard against misleading advertisements

  • Advertisements must be truthful. All descriptions, claims and comparisons,
    which relate to matters of objectively ascertainable fact, should be capable
    of substantiation. Advertisers and advertising agencies are required to
    produce such substantiation as and when called upon to do so by The
    Advertising Standards Council of India.
  • Where advertising claims are expressly stated to be based on, or supported
    by independent research or assessment, its source and date should be
    indicated in the advertisement.
  • Advertisements shall not, without permission from the person, firm or
    institution under reference, contain any reference to such person, firm or
    institution, which confers an unjustified advantage on the product
    advertised or tends to bring the person, firm or institution into ridicule
    or disrepute. If and when required to do so by The Advertising Standards
    Council of India, the advertiser and the advertising agency shall produce
    explicit permission from the person, firm or institution to which reference
    is made in the advertisement.
  • Advertisements shall neither distort facts nor mislead the consumer by means
    of implications or omissions. Advertisements shall not contain statements or
    visual presentation, which directly, or by implication or by omission or by
    ambiguity or by exaggeration, are likely to mislead the consumer about the
    product advertised or the advertiser, or about any other product or
    advertiser.
  • Advertisements shall not be so framed as to abuse the trust of consumers, or
    exploit their lack of experience or knowledge. No advertisement shall be
    permitted to contain any claim so exaggerated as to lead to grave or
    widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers.For example:

    • Products shall not be described as `free’ where there is any direct
      cost to the consumer other than the actual cost of any delivery,
      freight, or postage. Where such costs are payable by the consumer, a
      clear statement that this is the case shall be made in the
      advertisement.
    • Where a claim is made that if one product is purchased, another
      product will be provided `free’, the advertiser is required to show,
      as and when called upon by The Advertising Standards Council of
      India, that the price paid by the consumer for the product which is
      offered for purchase with the advertised incentive is no more than
      the prevailing price of the product without the advertised
      incentive.
    • Claims which use expressions such as “up to five years guarantee” or
      “Prices from as low as Rs. Y” are not acceptable if there is a
      likelihood of the consumer being misled, either as to the extent of
      the availability, or as to the applicability of the benefits
      offered.
    • Special care and restraint has to be exercised in advertisements
      addressed to those suffering from weakness, any real or perceived
      inadequacy of any physical attributes such as height or bust
      development, obesity, illness, impotence, infertility, baldness and
      the like, to ensure that claims or representations, directly or by
      implication, do not exceed what is considered prudent by generally
      accepted standards of medical practice and the actual efficacy of
      the product.
    • Advertisements inviting the public to invest money shall not contain
      statements which may mislead the consumer in respect of the security
      offered, rates of return or terms of amortisation; where any of the
      foregoing elements are contingent upon the continuance of, or change
      in existing conditions, or any other assumptions, such conditions or
      assumptions must be clearly indicated in the advertisement.
    • Advertisements inviting the public to take part in lotteries or
      prize competitions permitted under law, or which hold out the
      prospect of gifts, shall state clearly all material conditions as to
      enable the consumer to obtain a true and fair view of their
      prospects in such activities. Further, such advertisers shall make
      adequate provisions for the judging of such competitions
      announcement of the results and the fair distribution of prizes or
      gifts according 11 to the advertised terms and conditions within a
      reasonable period of time. With regard to the announcement of
      results, it is clarified that the advertiser’s esponsibility under
      this section of the Code is discharged adequately if the advertiser
      and results in the media used to announce the competition, as far as
      is practicable and advises the individual winners by post.
  • Obvious untruths or exaggerations intended to amuse or to catch the eye of
    the consumer are permissible, provided that they are clearly to be seen as
    humorous or hyperbolic, and not likely to be understood as making literal or
    misleading claims for the dvertised product.
  • In mass manufacturing and distribution of goods and services it is possible
    that there may be an occasional and unintentional lapse in the fulfilment of
    an advertised promise or claim. Such occasional and unintentional lapses may
    not invalidate the dvertisement in terms of this Code. In judging such
    issues, due regard shall be given to the following:

    • Whether the claim or promise is capable of fulfilment by a typical
      specimen of the product advertised.
    • Whether the proportion of product failures is within generally
      acceptable limits.
    • Whether the advertiser has taken prompt action to make good the
      deficiency to the consumer.

To ensure that advertisements are not offensive to generally accepted standards
of public decency.

Advertisements should contain nothing indecent, vulgar, especially in the
depiction of women, or nothing repulsive which is likely, in the light of
generally prevailing standards of decency and propriety, to cause grave and
widespread offence.

To safeguard against the indiscriminate use of advertising in situations
or of the promotion of products which are regarded as hazardous or harmful
to society or to individuals, particularly children, to a degree, or of a
type which is unacceptable to society at large.

  • No advertisement shall be permitted which:
    • Tends to incite people to crime or to promote disorder and violence
      or intolerance.
    • Derides any individual or groups on the basis of race, caste,
      colour, religion, gender, body shape, age, sexual orientation,
      gender identity, physical or mental conditions, or nationality
    • Presents criminality as desirable, or directly or indirectly
      encourages people – particularly children – to emulate it, or
      conveys the modus operandi of any crime.
    • Adversely affects friendly relations with a foreign State.
  • Advertisements addressed to children shall not contain anything, whether in
    illustration or otherwise, which might result in their physical, mental or
    moral harm, or which exploits their vulnerability For example,
    advertisements:

    • Should not encourage children to enter strange places or converse
      with strangers in an effort to collect coupons, wrappers, labels, or
      the like.
    • Should not feature dangerous or hazardous acts which are likely to
      encourage children to emulate such acts in a manner which could
      cause harm or injury.
    • Should not show children using or playing with matches or any
      inflammable or explosive substance; or playing with, or using sharp
      knives, guns or mechanical or electrical appliances, the careless
      use of which could lead to their suffering cuts, burns, shocks or
      other injury.
    • Should not feature children for tobacco or alcohol-based products.
    • Should not feature personalities from the field of sports and
      entertainment for products which, by law, require a health warning
      such as “………….. is injurious to health” in their advertising or
      packaging.
  • Advertisements shall not, without justifiable reason, show or refer to
    dangerous practices, or manifest a disregard for safety, or encourage
    negligence.
  • Advertisements should contain nothing which is in breach of the law, nor
    omit anything which the law requires.
  • Advertisements shall not propagate products, the use of which is banned
    under the law.
  • Advertisements for products whose advertising is prohibited or restricted
    by law or by this Code must not circumvent such restrictions by purporting
    to be advertisements for other products, the advertising of which is not
    prohibited or restricted by law, or by this Code. In judging whether or not
    any particular advertisement is an indirect advertisement for a product
    whose advertising is restricted or prohibited, due attention shall be paid
    to the following:

    • Whether the unrestricted product, which is purportedly sought to be
      promoted through the advertisement under the complaint, is produced
      and distributed in reasonable quantities, having regard to the scale
      of the advertising in question, the media used and the markets
      targeted.
    • Whether there exist in the advertisement under complaint, any direct
      or indirect clues or cues which could suggest to consumers that it
      is a direct or indirect advertisement for the product whose
      advertising is restricted or prohibited by law orby this Code.
    • Where advertising is necessary, the mere use of a brand name or
      company name that may also be applied to a product whose advertising
      is restricted or prohibited, is not a reason to find the
      advertisement objectionable, provided the advertisement is not
      objectionable in terms of (a) and (b) above.

To ensure that advertisements observe fairness in competition such that
the consumer’s need to be informed on choice in the marketplace and the
canons of generally accepted competitive behavior in business are both
served.

Guidelines

  • Advertisements containing comparisons with other manufacturers or
    suppliers, or with other products, including those where a competitor is
    named, are permissible in the interests of vigorous competition and public
    enlightenment, provided:

    • It is clear what aspects of the advertiser’s product are being
      compared with what aspects of the competitor’s product
    • The subject matter of comparison is not chosen in such a way as to
      confer an artificial advantage upon the advertiser or so as to
      suggest that a better bargain is offered than is truly the case.
    • The comparisons are factual, accurate and capable of
      substantiation.
    • There is no likelihood of the consumer being misled as a result of
      the comparison, whether about the product advertised or that with
      which it is compared.
    • The advertisement does not unfairly denigrate, attack or discredit
      other products, advertisers or advertisements directly or by
      implication
  • Advertisements shall not make unjustifiable use of the name or initials of
    any other firm, company or institution, nor take unfair advantage of the
    goodwill attached to the trademark or symbol of another firm, its product or
    the goodwill acquired by its advertising campaign.
  • Advertisements shall not be similar to any other advertiser’s earlier run
    advertisements in general layout, copy, slogans, visual presentations, music
    or sound effects, so as to suggest plagiarism.
  • As regards matters covered by sections 2 and 3 above, complaints of
    plagiarism of advertisements released earlier abroad will lie outside the
    scope of this Code, except in the under-mentioned circumstances:

    • The complaint is lodged within 12 months of the first general
      circulation of the advertisements/campaign complained against.
    • The complainant provides substantiation regarding the claim of
      prior invention/usage abroad.

Chairman

Board of Governors, ASCI
April 21st 2012

Preamble

Advertisements have a one significant influence on people’s behaviour. As such,
advertisers are encouraged to depict advertisements in a manner which promotes
safe practices, e.g., wearing of helmets and fastening of seat belts, not using
mobiles/cell phones when driving, etc.

Guidelines

Specifically, advertisements should not:

  • Portray violation of traffic rules.
  • Show speed maneuverability in a manner which encourages unsafe or reckless
    driving, which could harm the driver, passengers and/or the general public.
  • Show stunts or actions, which require professional driving skills, in normal
    traffic conditions, which in any case should carry a readable cautionary
    message drawing viewer attention to the depiction of stunts.

Chairman

Board of Governors, ASCI
April 1st 2008

In order to evaluate the genuineness of an unrestricted product, or service brand
extension of a product (e.g., liquor and tobacco) whose advertising is
prohibited by law, The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has decided
the following objective criteria to be used to qualify a correct brand extension
product or service (see Chapter Ill Clause 3.6 (a) of ASCI code):

Brand extension product or service should be registered with appropriate
Government authority e.g., GST/FDA/FSSAI/TM etc.

  • For a brand that is present in the market for >2 years, the
    following criteria would apply

    • Sales turnover of the product or service should exceed Rs. 5 crore
      per annum nationally, or Rs 1 crore per annum per state, where
      distribution has been established.
    • A valid certificate from an independent organisation such as
      NielsenIQ or category – specific industry association, or an
      independent and reputed CA firm would be required to prove the
      concerned criteria.
  • Brand extensions which have been launched in the market, but have
    not yet completed two years must meet any one of the following
    criteria:

    • Achieve a net sales turnover of Rs. 20 lakhs per month from launch.
      Such sales should not be to a subsidiary or sister concern
    • Demonstrate fixed asset investments which are exclusive to the
      advertised brand extension of not less than Rs. 10 crore.
      Such assets could be land, machines, factory, software, etc., in
      case the product is being manufactured/ developed by the
      advertiser. No advertising related expense should be part of such
      investments.
    • In case the manufacturing/procurement of such brand extensions is
      being outsourced, then evidence may include board resolutions and
      purchase orders for long term (> 1 year) contracts with service
      providers/manufacturing entities, stating their capacities, and
      contracted volumes/Rupee value, which clearly demonstrate the
      possibility of achieving the turnover as laid out in criteria 2B
      (I).
    • Give evidence of turnover greater than 10% of the turnover of the
      same brand in the restricted category (including sub brands in the
      restricted category)

All the above evidence should be certified by a reputed and independent CA firm.

Irrespective of the length of time the brand has been in the market, date of
launch would be considered as date of the first invoice for sale for the said
brand extension.

If a brand extension cannot meet the qualification criteria, for the purpose of
the ASCI code it would not be considered a genuine brand extension, but rather a
surrogate created to advertise a restricted category.

Chairman

Board of Governors, ASCI
July 15th 2021

Preamble

Communication and advertisements related to F&B can have significant impact on
the lives of the public in general, and their physical and material well-being
in particular. It is therefore imperative that F&B advertisements fulfil their
intended roles, and advertisers adopt strict principles of self-regulation, and
not mislead the general public in any manner detrimental to well-being. Caution
and care should be observed in advertising of F&B, especially ones containing
relatively High Fat, Sugar and Salt (HFSS). Recognising the need to promote high
standards of business ethics, to ensure commercial communications to consumers
are responsible and the need to provide honest and truthful information about
food and beverage products are met, the following guidelines are issued.

Guidelines

  • Advertisements should not be misleading or deceptive. Specifically,
    advertisements should not mislead consumers to believe that
    consumption of product advertised will result directly in personal changes
    in intelligence, physical ability or exceptional recognition. Such claims,
    if made in advertisements, should be supported and substantiated with
    evidence and with adequate scientific basis.
  • Advertisements that include what consumer, acting reasonably, might
    interpret as health or nutritional claims, shall be supported by appropriate
    scientific evidence and meeting the requirement of basic food standards laid
    down under the Food Safety Standards Act and Rules, wherever applicable.
  • Advertisements should not disparage good dietary practice or the selection
    of options, such as fresh fruits and vegetables that
    accepted dietary opinion recommends should form part of the normal diet.
  • Advertisements should not encourage over or excessive consumption or show
    inappropriately large portions of any food or beverage. It should reflect
    moderation in consumption and show portion sizes appropriate to the occasion
    or situation.
  • Advertisements should also not undermine the importance of healthy
    lifestyles or mislead as to the nutritive value of the food or beverage.
  • Advertisement should not undermine the role of parental care and guidance in
    ensuring proper food choices are made by children.
  • Advertisements for food or beverages, unless nutritionally designed as such,
    should not be promoted or portrayed as a meal replacement.
  • Claims in advertisements should not be inconsistent with information on the
    label or packaging of the food or beverage.
  • Advertisement for food and beverages should not claim or imply endorsement
    by any government agency, professional body, and
    independent agency or individual in a particular profession in India, unless
    there is prior consent, the claim is current, the endorsement is verifiable,
    and the agency body is named.

Chairman

Board of Governors, ASCI
February 1st 2013

Preamble

Educational institutions such as universities, colleges, schools, coaching classes, Edtech platforms etc., which offer education and training programmes, play a vital role in building the intellectual capital of India. Parents place a very high value on the education of their children and are known to make great personal sacrifices to enable their children get the right education. Unlike a tangible product, where it is frequently possible to judge the value of what is being offered by inspection and demonstration, in the field of education and training, the value of a programme is judged mainly by means such as degrees, diplomas and other qualification nomenclatures, recognition, affiliations, testimonials, accreditations, admissions/job/compensation promises – of which, the variety being advertised are many.

The advertising of these products and services can have an impact on the minds of growing children and vulnerable parents. Therefore, in addition to being truthful and honest, and complying with Chapter I of the ASCI code that requires ads to be honest, ads must also consider any harm that can be caused through the depictions or messages. Chapter III of the ASCI Code requires advertisements addressed to children to not contain anything, whether in illustration or otherwise, which might result in their physical, mental or moral harm, or which exploits their vulnerability.

Guidelines

Further to complying with the general rules of ASCI’s Code for Self–Regulation in advertising, the advertisements of educational institutions, programmes and platforms shall comply with the following guidelines:

    1. The advertisement shall not state or lead the public to believe that an institution or course or programme is official, recognised, authorised, accredited, approved, registered, affiliated, endorsed or has a legally defined situation unless the advertiser is able to substantiate with evidence.
      1. An advertisement offering a degree, diploma or certificate, which by law requires to be recognised or approved by an authority shall have the name of that authority specified for that particular field.
      2. In case the advertised institution or programme is not recognised or approved by any mandatory authority, but is affiliated with another institution, which is approved or recognised by a mandatory authority, then the full name and location of the said affiliating institution shall also be stated in the advertisement.
      3. The name of the affiliating institution, as indicated in 2.(b), shall not be less than 50% of the font size as that of the advertised institution or programme in visual media such as print, internet, hoarding, leaflet, prospectus etc., including television. In audio media such as radio or TV, the name of the affiliating institution (if applicable), must be stated.
    2. Advertisement shall not state or lead the public to believe that enrolment in the institution, programme or preparation course or coaching classes will guarantee the student a rank, high marks, temporary or permanent job, admissions to institutions, job promotions, salary increase, etc. unless the advertiser is able to submit substantiation to such effect. In addition, the advertisement must carry a disclaimer stating ‘past record is no guarantee of future prospects.’ The font size of the disclaimer should not be less than the size of the claim being made in the advertisements.
    3. Advertisements shall not make claims with a numerical value of 100% with respect to claims that are abstract and non-quantifiable in nature. For eg: 100% Placement/Job assistance, 100% Job opportunities/ Job oriented courses.
      1. Advertisements shall not make claims regarding the extent of the passing batch placed, the highest or average compensation of the students placed, enrolment of students, admissions of students to renowned educational institutes, marks and ranking of students passed out, testimonial of topper students, institution’s or its programme’s competitive ranking, size and qualification of its faculty, affiliation with a foreign institution, institute’s infrastructure, etc. unless they are of the latest completed academic year and substantiated with evidence.
      2. Advertisement stating the competitive rank of the institution or its programme shall also provide the full name and date of the publication or medium, which released the rankings.
      3. Visuals of the infrastructure of any institution shown in an advertisement shall be real and existing at the time of the advertisement’s release.
      4. Testimonials of toppers in an advertisement shall be from students who have completed the testimony programme, exams or subject only from the advertising institute.
      5. An advertisement stating the number of passing out students placed for jobs shall also state the total number of students passing out from the placed class.
    4. An advertisement may not show school students compromising on sleep or meals to study as this normalises unhealthy habits which are detrimental to student health.
    5. While an advertisement may show disappointment with low scores, it must not portray an average or poor scorer as an unsuccessful student or a failure, or show him/ her/ them as demotivated, depressed or unhappy, or receiving less love or appreciation from parents, teachers or peers.
    6. An advertisement must not create a false sense of urgency or fear of missing out that could accentuate anxieties amongst school students, or their parents.
    7. While an advertisement may feature students of any gender, the advertisement must not suggest that certain subjects are associated with particular genders alone. Advertisements must also not suggest that students with high scores are always associated with stereotypical characteristics such as wearing thick glasses. This does not prevent advertisements from depicting such students so long as they do not suggest that only these students are successful.

Chairman

Board of Governors, ASCI
March 9th 2023

Chapter I (4) of the ASCI code states that “Advertisements shall neither distort facts nor mislead the consumer by means of implications or omissions.” Therefore it is important that certain claims be appropriately explained to ensure that consumers with average intelligence are not misled, nor deceived by means of implications or omissions. These guidelines are meant to help Advertisers, Agencies and the Media to better understand the rules in the ASCI Code for Self-Regulation in Advertising in so far as they relate to disclaimers used in Advertising.

Guidelines

    1. A Disclaimer can expand or clarify a claim, make qualifications, or resolve ambiguities, to explain the claim in further detail, but should not contradict/modify the material claim made nor contradict the main message conveyed by the advertiser or change the dictionary meaning of the words used in the claim as received or perceived by a consumer.

      For example

      • If the claim is to offer a product or service for “free”, then the disclaimer should not contradict the claim by seeking some form of payment for the product or service.
      • If the claim is for giving “cash back”, the disclaimer should not contradict the claim by giving the payback only in kind. However, the disclaimer can explain that “cash back” can be construed to mean virtual wallet or credit to be used as a form of online payment.
      • If the claim in the advertisement is for a discount on all products, then the disclaimer should not limit the offer to only a few select products.
    2. A disclaimer should not attempt to suppress material information with respect to the claim, the omission/absence of which is likely to make the advertisement deceptive or conceal its commercial intent.

      For example

      • A claim of “best food processing equipment in India” should not be disclaimed by stating “for vegetable processing only” or “in major metros only”
      • Disclaimer such as “T&C apply” should indicate where this information is available to consumers for further reference.
    3. A disclaimer should not attempt to correct a misleading claim made in an Advertisement.

      For example

      • A claim of internet speeds of “up to 10 mpbs” should not be limited to “between 12 am to 6 am only”.
      • Disclaimer for a claim of “lose up to 2 kgs of weight” should not be “when calorie consumption is limited to xx per day”.
    4. Legibility of Disclaimers
      1. The aim is to achieve a level of legibility that will enable an interested viewer, who makes some positive effort, to read all the information contained in the disclaimers. The general principles in this section are intended to complement the more specific, technical guidance in the sections that follow in order to achieve this aim.
      2. TV/ Video advertising is inherently limited by time and space. Viewers can only reasonably be expected to absorb information, if it is conveyed clearly. The use of disclaimer should, therefore, be kept to a minimum. Long or otherwise complex disclaimers with large blocks of text and difficult words are a deterrent to viewers attempting to read the contents of the disclaimer. This defeats the purpose of providing clarity regarding a material claim made in the advertisement and the ASCI may conclude that the advertisement, taken as a whole, does not comply with the Code.
      3. In such cases, alternative improvements should be considered by the advertisers, for example:
        1. Modification of the headline claim to reduce the need for further qualification through disclaimers.
        2. Removal or modification of words or phrases that are not simple and direct.
        3. Breaking messages down into shorter, more viewer-friendly phrases or sentences.
        4. Removal of words, phrases or sentences from the disclaimer that serve no essential purpose but might detract from more important information in the disclaimer or ad creative more generally.
        5. Advertisers should take all steps to ensure that the disclaimer/s is/are kept to a minimum and are as straight-forward and simple to comprehend.
        6. Provided for the cases where the disclaimer is lengthy owing to compliance with regulatory requirement or to adhere to ASCI’s disclaimer guidelines, the same shall not be considered as an attempt by the advertiser to mislead or deter the legibility of the disclaimer.

Requirements for the disclaimers also cover the following:

      1. A disclaimer shall be in the same language as that of the claim/s of the Advertisement. In case of bilingual advertisements, the disclaimer should be in the dominant language of the advertisement.
      2. The font type should be the same as the claim or sans serif for better readability, and NOT in italics.
      3. The placement position of disclaimers of a claim on packaging should be in a prominent and visible space and should ideally be on the same panel of the packaging as the claim.
      4. The direction of disclaimers should be along the direction of the majority of the copy, such that no rotation of head or medium would be needed to read it. Preferably, this should be along the natural reading direction of the medium. Exceptions could be for small packs with limited space (e.g. packaging less than 25 ml/gms).
      5. For comparative claims, the basis of comparison must be stated in a font size that is at least 25% of the font size of the claim which is being made and positioned in close proximity of the claim i.e. immediately next to or immediately below the claim.
      6. If the claim is presented as a voice over (VO), then the disclaimer should be displayed in sync with the VO.
      7. A disclaimer should be clear, distinct from the background, prominent enough and legible. Disclaimer should be clearly readable to a normally-sighted person reading the marketing communication once, from a reasonable distance and at a reasonable speed.
        1. Text height of the disclaimer in television commercials or videos shall conform to the following:
          1. For standard definition images, the height of the text lower case elements shall be NOT LESS THAN 14 pixels [14 lines] in a 576 line raster.
          2. For high definition images, the height of the text lower case elements shall be NOT LESS THAN 26 pixels [26 lines] in a 1080 line raster.
          3. For 4K/UHD images/video, the height of the text shall be NOT LESS THAN 57 pixels [57 lines] in a 2160 line raster.
        2. In print advertising, the font size of disclaimers shall be NOT LESS THAN 7 point for advertisements of 50 cc or less, NOT LESS THAN 9 point for advertisements of 100 cc or less and NOT LESS THAN 10 points for advertisements of more than 100 CC.
        3. In static medium like hoardings or point-of-sale advertising, disclaimers should have font sizes equivalent to 2.6% of the height of the medium and NOT LESS than 10 point font size. For large hoarding of 400 sq. feet or more, the font size should be NOT LESS than 100 points.
      8. Visual presentation in terms of contrast and color, an advertiser shall ensure that all disclaimers:
        1. Be in a colour that contrasts with the background, such that it allows the text to be clearly legible.
        2. Not be designed in a way such that the text keeps fading in and out of vision. In such cases, it will normally be necessary to place the text on an opaque single-coloured block.
      9. Comprehension – Disclaimers in advertisements should use simple words that are easy to understand and avoid the use of unfamiliar abbreviations or long and complex words that may not be readily understood by a consumer.
      10. Hold duration and readability of disclaimer –
        1. In television commercials or any other video advertisement on digital media, all disclaimers should be clearly readable to consumers. In a single frame in an advertisement:
          1. There should not be more than one disclaimer
          2. The disclaimer should be restricted to two full length lines (unless as mentioned in Clause 4(c)(vi)) and remain on screen for AT LEAST 4 seconds for every line
        2. Disclaimers that take up more than two full length lines are likely to necessitate higher requirements for both size of text and the duration of hold. Viewers must be given an appropriate length of time to read the same. This part of the guidance outlines a method for establishing the duration of hold in the context of a particular advertisement.

          In general, disclaimers should be held for a duration calculated at the rate of 5 words per second. An additional ‘recognition period’ should be added to the duration of hold calculated.

          1. Where the disclaimers concerned contain:
            1. 9 words or fewer, the recognition period is 2 seconds; and
            2. 10 words or more, the recognition period is 3 seconds.
          2. For the purposes of calculating the duration of hold of a disclaimer, all forms of text appearing on screen at any one point in time should be counted. This includes both disclaimer text and any text content in the main ad creative regardless of where on screen it appears and whether or not it is repeated in audio.
          3. However, the following information when appearing in an advertisement, will be excluded from being included within the requirement specified under this clause:
            • a company name, brand name or logo;
            • text that is included for reasons of a purely technical legal nature unrelated to consumer protection or the offer (in practice this will almost always apply only to film and video trailer credits and to copyright disclaimers or the like);
            • text that is purely incidental to the advertisement and of such a kind that viewers will be unlikely to believe contains information (e.g. text on packaging where this is not being used to convey any part of the claim or offer); and
            • abstract signs such as ‘Rs’ or ‘%’ or decimal point, in numbers or prices.
          4. Furthermore, the following miscellaneous expressions should usually be counted as one word:
            • e-mail addresses;
            • internet URLs; and
            • common abbreviations.

        The factors influencing readability of disclaimers can work in combination to frustrate viewers’ attempts to read and understand them. Advertisers are cautioned that the ASCI will consider the factors individually and cumulatively when investigating complaints.

      11. Speed for audio disclaimer – In advertisements in Radio / TV / Internet etc., the speed of spoken disclaimers should not exceed 6 syllables per second and its volume should be at the same volume level as the rest of the audio.

Chairman

Board of Governors, ASCI
November 17th 2022

DEFINITIONPERIOD OVER WHICH
CAN BE CLAIMED
NewThe words “new” or “improved”
must specify what aspect of
the product/service is new or
improved- viz the product’s
utility, function, product design,
package design, etc.
The word “new”, “improved” or
an ‘improvement’ of a product
may be used in advertisements
only for a period of one (1)
year from the time the new or
improved product/service has
been launched/introduced in
the market.

Chairman

Board of Governors, ASCI
June 1st 2014

Marketers may claim saving for a larger pack, provided the comparison is made
without any ambiguity by highlighting number of smaller pack units versus the
larger promotional pack (viz., “Save INR XX for a 2 KG pack as compared to four
500 gm packs”). Words to be used “save” and not “off”.

Chairman

Board of Governors, ASCI
June 10th 2014

Preamble

While all fairness products are licensed for manufacture and sale by relevant
state Food & Drug Administrations (FDA) under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, there
is a strong concern in certain sections of society that advertising of fairness
products tends to communicate and perpetuate the notion that dark skin is
inferior and undesirable. ASCI code’s Chapter III 1(b) already states that
advertisements should not deride race, caste, colour, creed or nationality. Yet,
given how widespread the advertising for fairness and skin lightening products
is, and the concerns of different stakeholders in society, ASCI, therefore, felt
a need to frame specific guidelines for this product category

Guidelines

The following guidelines are to be used when creating and assessing
advertisements in this category

  • Advertising should not communicate any discrimination as a result of skin
    colour. These advertisements should not reinforce negative social
    stereotyping on the basis of skin colour. Specifically, advertising should
    not directly or implicitly show people with darker skin, in a way which is
    widely seen as, unattractive, unhappy, depressed or concerned. These
    advertisement should not portray people with darker skin, in a way which is
    widely seen as, at a disadvantage of any kind, or inferior, or unsuccessful
    in any aspect of life, particularly in relation to being attractive to the
    opposite sex, matrimony, job placement, promotions and other prospects.
  • In the pre-usage depiction of product, special care should be taken to
    ensure that the expression of the models in the real and graphical
    representation should not be negative in a way which is widely seen as
    unattractive, unhappy, depressed or concerned.
  • Advertising should not associate darker or lighter colour skin with any
    particular socio-economic strata, caste, community, religion, profession or
    ethnicity.
  • Advertising should not perpetuate gender-based discrimination because of
    skin colour.

Chairman

Board of Governors, ASCI
August 14th 2014

Preamble

Celebrities have a strong following and hence high credibility among consumers.
Therefore, advertisements featuring celebrities need to doubly ensure that
claims made in it are not misleading, false or unsubstantiated; so as not to
harm the interests of the consumers, especially for products or services which
can cause serious financial loss and physical harm. These guidelines are
developed so that the advertiser is guided to produce and release appropriate
advertisements featuring celebrities in it. Advertisements featuring celebrities
or involving celebrity endorsements would be subject to the following
guidelines:

Guidelines:

  • Celebrities, for the purpose of these guidelines are famous and well-known
    people, who are from the field of entertainment and
    sports, and would also include other famous and well-known personalities
    like doctors, authors, activists, educationists, etc. who
    get compensated for appearing in advertising*
  • All advertisements featuring celebrities should ensure that it does not
    violate any of the ASCI code in letter and spirit. Celebrities are expected
    to have adequate knowledge of these Codes and it is the duty of the
    advertiser and the agency to make sure that the celebrity they wish to
    engage with, is made aware of them.
  • Testimonials, endorsements or representations of opinions or preference of
    celebrities must reflect genuine, reasonably current
    opinion of the individual(s) making such representations, and must be based
    upon adequate information about, or experience with, the product or service
    being advertised.
  • Celebrity should do due diligence to ensure that all description, claims and
    comparisons made in the advertisements they appear in, or endorse, are
    capable of being objectively ascertained and capable of substantiation, and
    should not mislead or appear deceptive. The celebrity or his/her
    agent/manager must give a duly signed written confirmation to ASCI that the
    celebrity has undertaken due diligence for the claims and representations
    made claims/endorsements made in a given advertisement in which the
    celebrity appears.
  • Celebrities should not participate in any advertisement of a product or
    treatment or remedy that is prohibited for advertising under

    • The Drugs & Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act 1954
      as updated from time to time (Link for preliminary
      guidance http://cghealth.nic.in/CFDA/Doc/Acts&Rules/
      Drugs%20and%20Magic%20Remedies%20(Objectionable%20
      Advertisement)%20Act,%201954.pdf or
    • The Drugs & Cosmetic Act 1940 and Rules 1945: (Schedule J) as
      updated from time to time (Link for preliminary guidance
      https://cdsco.gov.in/opencms/export/sites/CDSCO_WEB/Pdfdocuments/acts_rules/2016DrugsandCosmeticsAct1940Rules1945.pdf
  • Celebrities should not participate in any advertisements for products which,
    by law, require a health warning such as “………….. is injurious to health” in
    their advertising or packaging.
  • The celebrity can either directly, or through their concerned agency, choose
    to seek Endorser Due Diligence (EDD) from ASCI on whether the advertisement
    potentially violates any provisions of the ASCI code and any other legal
    statutes pertaining to advertising. If the advertisement is developed fully
    following the EDD provided by the ASCI, then the celebrity would be
    considered as having completed due diligence

You may contact ASCI at advisory@ascionline.in for seeking details regarding EDD
procedure or refer www.ascionline.in.

*Compensated Rs. 20 lakhs or above as per current limit for appearing in a single
advertisement or a campaign, or per year, whichever is more, AND / OR is listed
in top 100 celebrities as per any one of the current and immediate past list of
Forbes or the Times or Celebrity track report of Hansa Research, or any such
list which is intended to be indicative and not exhaustive.

Chairman

Board of Governors, ASCI
April 21st 2012

Preamble

Awards and rankings are increasingly being used by advertisers to make
superiority claims for their products and services in advertising.

Consumers, owing to a lack of knowledge, may be led into believing that an award
or ranking which is given to a brand, product, institute or service makes it
superior and/or more authentic. Some of the awards and rankings are likely to
mislead the consumer by communicating that the product or service is a
recognised one, and raise its esteem in the mind of the consumer as evaluated by
experts or by a large body of experts, whereas this actually may not be the
case.

It is, therefore, accordingly necessary, that awards and rankings used in
advertising should be sourced from credible, recognised, independent bodies,
which employ ethical processes, rigour and appropriate research, so that
superiority claims made by advertisers are substantiated and do not mislead
consumers.

This is particularly important for claims made by educational institutions, which
affect children’s education, career opportunities and future job prospects. In
the healthcare services area, this can severely impact patients’ health and
wellbeing.

Key reference for applicable ASCI chapters

Chapter I – To ensure the Truthfulness and Honesty of representations and
claims made by advertisers and to safeguard the consumer against misleading
advertisements:

  • Advertisements must be truthful.
  • Where advertising claims are expressly stated to be based on, or supported
    by, independent research or assessment, the source and date of such
    independent research or assessment must be indicated in the advertisement.
  • Advertisements shall not, without permission from the person, firm or
    institution under reference, contain any reference to such person, firm or
    institution, which confers an unjustified advantage to the product
    advertised, or which tends to bring the person, firm or institution into
    ridicule or disrepute.
  • Advertisements should disclose all material facts, which if suppressed or
    distorted, would mislead the consumer by implication
    or omission.
  • Advertisements should be framed in such manner as to gain consumer trust,
    and not exploit his/her lack of understanding or knowledge.

Guidelines

These guidelines are developed to guide advertisers for appropriate reference to
award/s or ranking/s, claim/s in advertising, and will assist the advertiser to
understand why ASCI’s Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) may accept or reject the
mention of a certain award or ranking.

  • Awards/rankings should not be used as an alternative for consumer or
    scientific research or testing, which is required to substantiate a
    superiority claim about the effective use or performance of products or
    services.
  • Advertisements that refer to awards/rankings should indicate clearly the
    name of the organisation that has provided the award/ranking and the month
    and year in which the award/ranking was pronounced.
  • The validity of the award/ranking so used to substantiate a claim should be
    of a period preceding the advertisement by not more
    than 12 months in case the award follows an annual awarding cycle. For
    awards that are valid for a longer period, claim substantiation documents
    should provide evidence of validity of the same. In case the awarding
    organisation has conducted another ranking exercise, the previous ranks
    would automatically cease to be valid. In some cases if the year of the
    award period is self-explanatory, then such reference to the award being
    current is not applicable.
  • The permission or consent of the person, institution or organisation
    conferring the award/ranking should be obtained in writing before being used
    in the advertisement.
  • Photographs of the award/certificate/awards function, or the list of
    invitees to the award function, is by itself not sufficient evidence to
    support the award. Additionally, details on the protocol/process followed by
    the awarding/ranking organisation is required to substantiate the claim.
  • Awards/rankings based on surveys done in one area (say, a city or state)
    cannot be extrapolated to include a larger territory (say, India, Asia, the
    world). Institutions cannot extrapolate data to substantiate their claim.
    Additionally, awards/rankings given in one category cannot be used to
    promote an institution in another category. For example –

    • If a university is ranked 25th on a national level, it cannot claim
      that it is in the ‘Top 5’ in say, the North zone, unless the
      awarding organisation publishes a zonal ranking as well.
    • If the award is given to a particular department of a college or to
      a college under a university, then the same cannot be
      attributed to the college or university respectively.
  • To substantiate the award/ranking claim, the advertiser needs to give an
    undertaking that there is no commercial relationship or conflict of interest
    between the awarding organisation/the research agency/ jury members and the
    advertiser, and that they are two independent entities. To be specific,
    there should be no direct or indirect payment made by the advertiser to the
    institution or organisation granting such award.
  • For a complaint lodged at ASCI against an advertisement claiming
    award/ranking, the concerned advertiser would be required to
    provide details on the protocol/process followed by the awarding/ ranking
    organisation for conferring the award/ranking on the
    product/service. This would mean and include, but shall not be limited to:

    • The criteria for granting award/ranking, which should be published
      and available in the public domain.
    • The process followed, i.e., either via market research or by a panel
      decision.

      • If it is by means of a market research then its authenticity
        needs to be supported for the following:

        • The market research agency is a member of a
          recognised market research association, such as
          Market Research Society of India (MRSI) or ESOMAR
        • The sample size and methodology adopted.
      • If there has been no market research, but the award granted
        is based on a panel/jury decision, then in such cases:

        • The credentials and qualifications of the panel/jury
          judging the subject of the claim made for the brand.
        • The detailed process followed by the panel in
          arriving at the decision.
        • How many brands/products were assessed? What was the
          criteria used, and what was the methodology deployed
          by the panel in arriving at its decision?
  • For a complaint lodged at ASCI against an advertisement claiming
    award/ranking for a school/college/university/educational enterprise, the
    concerned advertiser would be required to provide details on the
    protocol/process followed by the awarding/ranking organisation for
    conferring the award/ranking on the institution. This should include:

    • The evaluation parameters, which must be clearly specified and the
      respective scores obtained by the educational institutions
      on each parameter so specified.
    • The parameters should cover various aspects, such as infrastructure,
      students per class, faculty strength and profile, outcomes (academic
      results/awards/higher studies), teaching methodology, sports
      education, co-curricular activities, leadership and life-skills,
      etc.
    • Only when a multi-faceted evaluation is done, can there be a fair
      evaluation of the quality of education provided by an
      educational institution.
    • Where multiple parameters are used, the weightages between the
      various parameters need to be indicated.
  • For a complaint lodged at ASCI against an advertisement claiming
    award/ranking for a healthcare enterprise/hospital/ treatment, the concerned
    advertiser would be required to provide details on the protocol/process
    followed for conferring the award/ranking on the product/service. This
    should include:

    • Evaluation parameters, which are clearly specified and the scores
      obtained by leading healthcare providers on each parameter is
      published.
    • The parameters should cover various aspects such as, infrastructure,
      number and profile of doctors, their experience and qualifications,
      patient care outcomes, innovation in treatment/protocols, and impact
      on business operations or patient care outcomes and medical KPIs.
    • Where multiple parameters are used, the weightages between various
      parameters needs to be indicated.
    • Where doctor, patient or general public perception is incorporated
      in the evaluation process, the study should be collected by an
      independent reputable agency. The sample size and spread, target
      group definition, sampling method and the field control procedures
      should be clearly specified.
    • The questionnaire and data collection records should be available to
      ASCI for review.

Chairman

Board of Governors, ASCI
April 21st 2022

Preamble:

Online gaming, where consumers are required to put up money for a possibility of
cash or equivalent winnings, has become immensely popular.Such games are called
“ONLINE GAMING FOR REAL MONEY WINNINGS”. Vast amounts of resources are being
spent to establish new brands and new formats in this category. Such games fall
under state jurisdictions, and from time to time, they may be allowed or
disallowed through notifications or enactment of laws. It is not within ASCI’s
jurisdiction to decide the legality
of such games, and objections related to the legality of such games, and the
appearance of their advertisements in specific media are outside of ASCI
purview, and must be taken up with the concerned sector regulators within the
government. ASCI can process complaints regarding the advertising content of
‘Online Gaming for Real Money Winnings’, when such advertisements potentially
violate the ASCI code. Such games entail an element of risk through financial
losses. Such games may also be addictive
in nature. Some advertisers have proactively put disclaimers to warn the public
on both issues. However, there is a need to standardise the same as well as
ensure that all advertisements in the category carry the required warnings.

For advertisements of ‘Online Gaming for Real Money Winnings’ the following
specific guidelines have been developed to guide advertisers to so that their
advertisements do not violate the ASCI code pertaining to misleading
advertisements (Chapter I), or of being harmful to society or individuals
(Chapter III). These guidelines would be applicable to the content of all
advertisements of ‘Online Gaming for Real Money Winnings’

Guidelines:

  • No gaming advertisement may depict any person under the age of 18 years, or
    who appears to be under the age of 18, engaged in
    playing a game of ‘Online Gaming for Real Money Winnings’
    or suggest that such persons can play these games.
  • Every such gaming advertisement must carry the following disclaimer:
    • Print/static: This game may be habit-forming or financially risky.
      Play responsibly.

      • Such a disclaimer should occupy no less than 20% of the
        space in the advertisement.
      • It should also SPECIFICALLY meet
        disclaimer guidelines 4 (i) (ii) (iv) (viii) laid out in the
        ASCI code.
    • Audio/Video: This game may be habit-forming or financially risky.
      Play responsibly

      • Such a disclaimer must be made at a normal speaking pace at
        the end of the advertisement and be presented for a minimum
        of 4 seconds.
      • It must be in the same language as the advertisement.
      • For audiovisual mediums, the disclaimer needs to be in both
        the audio and visual formats.
      • The disclaimer should be presented in a way that is clear
        from other actions/effects/claims/text/audio that may
        distract the consumer.
  • The advertisements should not present ‘Online Gaming for Real Money
    Winnings’ as an income opportunity or an alternative
    employment option
  • The advertisement should not suggest that a person engaged in gaming
    activity is in any way more successful as compared to others

Chairman

Board of Governors, ASCI
April 21st 2022

DEFINITIONS

Influencer

An Influencer is someone who has access to an audience and the power to affect
their audiences’ purchasing decisions or opinions about a product, service,
brand or experience, because of the influencer’s authority, knowledge, position,
or relationship with their audience.

Virtual Influencer

Virtual influencers, are fictional computer generated ‘people’ or avatars who
have the realistic characteristics, features and personalities of humans, and
behave in a similar manner as influencers.

Material connection

A material connection is any connection between an advertiser and influencer that
may affect the weight or credibility of the representation made by the
influencer. Material connection could include, but is not limited to benefits
and incentives, such as monetary or other compensation, free products with or
without any conditions attached including those received unsolicited, discounts,
gifts, contest and sweepstakes entries, trips or hotel stays, media barters,
coverage, awards, or any family or employment relationship, etc.

Digital media

Digital Media is defined as a means of communication that can be transmitted over
the internet or digital networks, and includes communication received, stored,
transmitted, edited or processed by a digital media platform. Digital media
includes but is not limited to:

  • Internet (advergames, sponsored posts, branded content, promotional blogs,
    paid-for links, gamification, in-game advertising,
    teasers, viral advertising, augmented reality, native advertising, connected
    devices, influencers, etc.)
  • On-demand across platforms, including near video on demand, subscription
    video on demand, near movie on demand, free video on demand, transactional
    video on demand, advertising video on demand, video on demand, pay per view,
    etc.
  • Mobile broadcast, mobile, communications content, websites, blogs, apps,
    etc./digital TV (including digital video broadcasting, handheld and
    terrestrial), etc.
  • NSTV (non-standard television)
  • DDHE (digital delivery home entertainment)
  • DTT (digital terrestrial television)

Preamble:

As digital media becomes increasingly pervasive and more consumers start to
consume advertising on various digital platforms, it has become important to
understand the peculiarities of these advertisements and the way consumers view
them. With lines between content and advertisements becoming blurry, it is
critical that consumers must be able to distinguish when something is being
promoted with an intention to influence their opinion or behaviour for an
immediate or eventual commercial gain. Consumers may view such messages without
realising the commercial intent of these, and that becomes inherently
misleading, and in violation
of clause 1.4 (misleading by omission) and 1.5 (abuse trust of consumers or
exploit their lack of experience or knowledge).

Guidelines:

  • DisclosureAll advertisements published by social media influencers or their
    representatives, on such influencers’ accounts must carry a
    disclosure label that clearly identifies it as an advertisement.

    • The following criteria must be used to determine if disclosure is
      required:

      • Disclosure is required if there is any material connection
        between the advertiser and the influencer.
      • Material connection is not limited to monetary compensation.
        Disclosure is required if there is anything of value given
        to
        mention or talk about the advertiser’s product or service.
        For example: If the advertiser or its agents gives free or
        discounted
        products or service, or other perks, and then the influencer
        mentions one of its products or services, a disclosure is
        needed
        even if they were not specifically asked to talk about that
        product or service.
      • Disclosures are required even if the evaluations are
        unbiased or fully originated by the influencer, so long as
        there is a material connection between the advertiser and
        influencer.
      • If there is no material connection and the influencer is
        telling people about a product or service they bought and
        happen
        to like, that is not considered to be an advertisement and
        no disclosure is required on such posts.
    • Disclosure must be upfront and prominent so that it is not missed
      byan average consumer

      • It should be placed in a manner that is hard to miss.
      • Disclosures are likely to be missed if they appear only on
        an ABOUT ME or profile page, or bios, at the end of posts or
        videos, or anywhere that requires a person to click MORE.
      • Disclosure should not be buried in a group of hashtags or
        links.
      • Using a platform’s disclosure tool should be considered in
        addition to an influencer’s own disclosure.
      • If the advertisement is only a picture or video post without
        accompanying text (such as Instagram stories or Snapchat),
        the discloser label needs to be superimposed over the
        picture/video, and it should be ensured that the average
        consumer is able to see it clearly.

        • For videos that last 15 seconds or lesser, the
          disclosure label must stay for a minimum of 3
          seconds.
        • For videos longer than 15 seconds, but less than 2
          minutes, the disclosure label should stay for 1/3rd
          the length of the video.
        • For videos which are 2 minutes or longer, the
          disclosure label must stay for the entire duration
          of the section in which the promoted brand or its
          features, benefits etc., are mentioned.
      • In live streams, the disclosure label should be announced at
        the beginning and the end of the broadcast. If the post
        continues
        to be visible after the live stream is over, appropriate
        disclosure must be added to the text/caption.
      • In the case of audio media, the disclosure must be clearly
        announced at the beginning and at the end of the audio, and
        before and after every break that is taken in between.
    • The disclosure must be made in a manner that is well understood by
      an average consumer.

      • Following is the list of disclosure labels permitted. Any
        one or more can be used:

        • Advertisement
        • Ad
        • Sponsored
        • Collaboration
        • Partnership
        • Employee
        • Free gift
        • “Paid Partnership” tag on Instagram
        • Affiliate
        • “Includes Paid Promotion” tag on YouTube
      • The disclosure should be in English OR in the language as
        the advertisement itself, in a way that is easy for an
        average
        consumer to understand.
    • A virtual influencer must additionally disclose to consumers that
      they are not interacting with a real human being. This disclosure
      must be upfront and prominent.
    • Responsibility of disclosure of material connection and also of the
      content of advertisement is upon the advertiser for whose product or
      service the advertisement is, and also upon the influencer. For
      clarity, where advertiser has a material connection with the
      influencer, advertiser’s responsibility will be to ensure that the
      posted influencer advertisement is in line with the ASCI code and
      its guidelines. While the influencer shall be responsible for making
      disclosures required under the guidelines, the advertiser, shall,
      where needed, call upon the influencer to delete or edit an
      advertisement or the disclosure label to adhere to the ASCI Code and
      Guidelines.
  • Due DiligenceThe influencers are advised to review and satisfy themselves that the
    advertiser is in a position to substantiate the claims made in the
    advertisement.

Addendum (Date 15.07.2021)

If an influencer/advertiser disputes that the piece of communication in question
is not an advertisement as there is no aterial connection, the following
evidence will be required to be submitted to ASCI:

  • A declaration from the advertiser stating that there is no material
    connection between them and the influencer as on the date of the post. This
    declaration needs to be signed by a senior member of the advertiser’s
    organisation such as the Marketing Head, Legal/ Compliance Head, and Digital
    Marketing Head or similar.
  • In the event that the advertiser of the brand featured is difficult to trace
    in spite of reasonable efforts, or if the piece of communication features
    brands of multiple advertisers, then proof of purchase of featured products
    and brands, provided by the influencer, would be considered adequate
    evidence to refute material connection.

Chairman

Board of Governors, ASCI
April 21st 2022

Preamble:

A Virtual Digital Asset (VDA) has been defined as any information or code or
number or token (not being Indian currency or foreign currency), generated
through cryptographic means or otherwise, by whatever name called, providing a
digital representation of value exchanged with or without consideration, with
the promise or representation of having inherent value, or functions as a store
of value or a unit of account including its use in any financial transaction or
investment, but not limited to investment scheme, and can be transferred, stored
or traded electronically.

These products are more commonly referred to as “crypto products” or Non-Fungible
Tokens (NFTs)

Such products are a relatively new and an evolving form of investments. There is
a need to protect consumer/investor interests, as users may not be aware of
risks arising from this form of trading and investment. The market for VDAs is
not regulated and can be very volatile, since it is usually not backed by any
tangible assets. In order to ensure that consumers who deal in VDA
products are fully aware of the risks, and are not misled, ads must comply with
the ASCI “Guidelines for Virtual Digital Assets and Linked Services”, so as not
to Violate Chapter 1 of the ASCI code, particularly clauses 1.1, 1.4, 1.5. that
require advertisements to be truthful, and not mislead consumers by implication,
ambiguity, exaggeration or omission, and not framed in a way that abuse their
trust or exploit their lack of knowledge.

Guidelines:

  • All ads for VDA products and VDA exchanges, or featuring VDAs, must carry
    the following disclaimer.

    “Crypto products and NFTs are unregulated and can be highly
    risky. There may be no regulatory recourse for any loss from such
    transactions.”

    Such a disclaimer must be made in the following manner so that it is
    PROMINENT and UNMISSABLE by an average consumer:

    • In print or static, equal to at least 1/5th of the advertising space
      at the bottom of the advertisement in an easy-to-read font, against
      a plain background, and to the maximum font size afforded by the
      space.
    • In video, the disclaimer should be placed at the end of the
      advertisement against a plain background. A voiceover must
      accompany the disclaimer in text. The voiceover should be at a
      normal speaking pace and must not be hurried. In the case of long
      format video of over two minutes, the said disclaimer should be
      repeated at the beginning and at the end of the video. The
      disclaimer must remain on screen for a minimum of five seconds.
    • In audio, the disclaimer must be spoken at the end of the
      advertisement. The voiceover should be at a normal speaking pace
      and must not be hurried. In the case of long format audio of over 90
      seconds, the said disclaimer should be repeated at the beginning and
      at the end of the audio.
    • In social media posts, such a disclaimer must be carried in both –
      the caption as well as any picture or video attachments. The
      disclaimer within the caption must be placed upfront at the
      beginning of the post. Where social media posts or advertisements
      have restrictions on text in the static picture, the disclaimer must
      be carried upfront in the caption before the fold.
    • In disappearing stories or posts unaccompanied by text, the said
      disclaimer will need to be voiced at the end of the story in the
      manner laid out in points (a) or (b) above. If the video is 15
      seconds or lesser, then the disclaimer may be carried in a prominent
      and visible manner as an overlay.
    • In formats where there is a limit on characters, the following
      shortened disclaimer must be used “Crypto products and NFT’s are
      unregulated and risky” followed by a link to the full disclaimer.
    • The disclaimer must be made in the dominant language of the
      advertisement
    • In addition to the above, all disclaimers must meet the minimum
      requirements laid down in the ASCI guidelines for disclaimers.
  • The words “currency”, “securities”, “custodian” and “depositories” may not
    be used in advertisements of VDA products or services as consumers associate
    these terms with regulated products.
  • The information contained in advertisements shall not contradict the
    information or warnings that the regulated entities provide to customers in
    the marketing of VDA products from time to time.
  • Advertisements that provide information on the cost or profitability of VDA
    products shall contain clear, accurate, sufficient and updated information.
    For example, “zero cost” will need to include all costs that the consumer
    might reasonably associate with the offer or transaction.
  • Information on past performance shall not be provided in any partial or
    biased manner. Returns for periods of less than 12 months shall not be
    included.
  • Every advertisement for VDA products must clearly give out the name of the
    advertiser and provide an easy way to contact them
    (phone number or email). This information should be presented in a manner
    that is easily understood by the average consumer.
  • No advertisement for VDA products or exchanges may show a minor, or someone
    who appears to be a minor, directly dealing with the product, or talking
    about the product.
  • No advertisement may show that VDA products or VDA trading could be a
    solution to money problems, personality problems or
    other such drawbacks.
  • No advertisement shall contain statements that promise or guarantee future
    increase in profits.
  • No advertisement may show that understanding VDA products is so easy that
    consumers do not have to think twice about investing.
    Nothing in the ad should downplay the risks associated with the category
  • VDA products may not be compared to any other asset class which is
    regulated.
  • Since this is a risky category, celebrities or prominent personalities who
    appear in VDA advertisements must take special care to ensure that they have
    done their due diligence about the statements and claims made in the
    advertisement, so as not to mislead consumers.

The guidelines will be applicable to all advertisements released or published on
or after 1st April 2022. Advertisers and media owners must also ensure that all
earlier advertisements must not appear in the public domain unless they comply
with the guidelines, post 15th April 2022.

Chairman

Board of Governors, ASCI
February 23rd 2022

Preamble:

The guidelines on harmful stereotyping follow the release of ASCI’s study
GenderNext, conducted along with Futurebrands in October 2021. The study
examined the depiction of women in advertising and identified several
stereotypes and tropes. While the report encourages advertisers and creators to
demonstrate more progressive roles based on the insights revealed, it also
dentified some stereotypical depictions that could negatively reinforce how
people think they should look and behave, and how others think they should look
and behave, based on their gender. This can have negative consequences for
individuals and for society as a whole,
and over a period of time. As society progresses and evolves, norms on what is
acceptable to consumers and other stakeholders also evolve. While harmful
stereotypes are not only present in advertising, and advertising is not the only
factor that reinforces these stereotypes, it is important for advertising to
play its rightful role and not contribute to the perpetuation of such
stereotypes.

As the gender landscape is a complex issue, the following guidelines provide a
specific interpretation of ASCI Chapter III (against harmful situations) as it
relates to harmful gender stereotyping. While the guidelines lay down the
boundaries of what is unacceptable, advertisers and creators are encouraged to
be inspired by the spirit of the GenderNext report and deploy the SEA framework
and the 3S checklist to create more progressive gender depictions when it comes
to the depiction of women. (https://ascionline.in/gendernextreport/index.html)

Guidelines

Note:

  • ASCI will consider an ad’s likely impact when taken as a whole, and in
    context
  • ASCI will consider stereotypes from the perspective of the group of
    individuals being stereotyped.
  • The use of humour or banter is not likely to overcome the underlying issue
    of such harmful stereotypes.
  • The guidelines do not intend to prevent ads from featuring:
    • glamorous, attractive, successful, aspirational or healthy people or
      lifestyles;
    • one gender only, including in advertisements for products developed
      for and aimed at a particular gender;
    • gender stereotypes as a means to challenge their harmful effects.

Advertisements must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to
cause harm or serious or widespread offence.

  • While advertisements may feature people undertaking genderstereotypical
    roles e.g., a woman cleaning the house or a man going to
    an office, or displaying gender-stereotypical characteristics e.g., a man
    being assertive or a woman being sensitive to others’ needs, they must not
    suggest that stereotypical roles or characteristics are:

    • always uniquely associated with a particular gender
    • the only options available to a particular gender
    • never carried out, or displayed by, another gender(s).
    • Advertisements that are aimed at or depict children may target and
      feature a specific gender, but should not convey that a particular
      children’s product, pursuit, behaviour, or activity, including
      choice of play or career, is inappropriate for one or another
      gender(s). For example, ads suggesting that a boy’s stereotypical
      personality should be “daring” or that a girl’s stereotypical
      personality should be “caring”, or someone chiding a boy playing
      with dolls or girls from jumping around, because it is not the
      typical activity associated with the gender, are likely to be
      problematic.
  • While advertisements may feature glamorous and attractive people, they must
    not suggest that an individual’s happiness or emotional wellbeing depends on
    conforming to these idealised gender-stereotypical body shapes or physical
    features.
  • Advertisements should not mock people for not conforming to gender
    stereotypes, their sexual orientation or gender identity, including in a
    context that is intended to be humorous, hyperbolic or exaggerated. For
    example, an ad may not belittle a man for carrying out stereotypically
    female roles or tasks or make fun of a same-sex relationship.
  • Advertisements should not reinforce unrealistic and undesirable gender
    ideals or expectations. For example, an advertisement must not depict a man
    with his feet up and family members creating a mess around a home, while a
    woman is solely responsible for cleaning up the mess, or a woman overly
    grateful for the man helping her in everyday chores. Similarly, a woman
    returning from work may not be shown as solely responsible for doing
    household duties, while others around her are at leisure.
  • An advertisement may not suggest that a person fails to achieve a task
    specifically because of their gender e.g., a man’s inability to change
    nappies; or a woman’s inability to park a car. In categories that usually
    target a particular gender, care must be taken to not depict condescension
    towards any other gender, or show them as incapable of understanding the
    product or unable to make decisions. This does not prevent the advertisement
    from showing these stereotypes as a means to challenge them.
  • Where an advertisement features a person with a physique or physical
    characteristics that do not match an ideal stereotype associated with their
    gender, the advertisement should not imply that their physique or physical
    characteristics are a significant reason for them not being successful, for
    example, in their romantic, social or professional lives. For example, an ad
    may not suggest that a man who is short, a woman who is dark, or any
    individual who is overweight has difficulty finding a job or a partner due
    to this aspect of their physique.
  • Advertisements should not indulge in the sexual objectification of
    characters of any gender or depict people in a sexualised and objectified
    way for the purposes of titillating viewers. This would include the use of
    language or visual treatments in contexts wholly irrelevant to the product.
    For example, an online takeaway service featuring an image of a woman
    wearing lingerie lying back in a provocative pose behind various fast-food
    items would be considered problematic. Even though the image may not be
    sexually explicit, by using a suggestive image of a woman that bears no
    relevance to the advertised product, the ad would be considered objectifying
    women by presenting them as sexual objects, and therefore is a gender
    stereotype that is likely to cause
    harm.
  • No gender should be encouraged to exert domination or authority over the
    other(s) by means of overt or implied threats, actual force, or through the
    use of demeaning language or tone. Advertisements cannot provoke or
    trivialise violence (physical or emotional), unlawful or anti-social
    behaviour based on gender. Additionally, advertisements should not encourage
    or normalise voyeurism, eve-teasing, stalking, emotional or physical
    harassment or any similar offences. This does not prevent the advertisement
    from showing these depictions as a means to challenge them.

Chairman

Board of Governors, ASCI
June 8th 2022

Preamble:

Online Deceptive Design Patterns commonly known as “Dark Patterns” is an umbrella term referring to a wide variety of practices commonly found in online user interfaces that lead consumers to make choices that often are not in their best interests. Developing a universally accepted definition of Dark Patterns is a challenge, owing in part to the wide variety of practices referred to as such and different views on whether certain practices should be considered Dark Patterns.

The OECD Committee on Consumer Policy proposes the following working definition intended to facilitate near-term discussion about such practices among regulators and policymakers across jurisdictions: “Dark commercial patterns are business practices employing elements of digital choice architecture, in particular in online user interfaces, that subvert or impair consumer autonomy, decision-making or choice. They often deceive, coerce or manipulate consumers and are likely to cause direct or indirect consumer detriment in various ways, though it may be difficult or impossible to measure such detriment in many instances.”

Dark Patterns share one or more end-goals – for example getting consumers to purchase, purchase more of, or continue to purchase, a good or service that they would otherwise not purchase or purchase in lesser quantity; to spend more money on a purchase or time on a service than desired; or to give up more personal data than desired – with the ultimate purpose of increasing business revenue. There are many instances of Dark Pattern executions which are unrelated to advertisements such as users being guilted into opting for something which they would otherwise not have, or, when consumers purchase something, additional products are added into the basket of the consumer, without their knowledge – like donations to relief funds, etc. However as ASCI’s remit is limited to self-regulation of Advertising content these guidelines cover only advertising in digital media including e-commerce, airline, food delivery etc. apps and websites.

Chapter 1 of the ACSI code requires ads to be honest, and not abuse the trust or lack of expertise of the consumer. The code requires ads to not mislead by omission, exaggeration, implication or ambiguity. To ensure that advertisements do not breach Chapter 1, the following guidelines are to be applied to digital advertising.

Guidelines

  1. Drip Pricing:

    Quoted prices in advertisements and e-commerce sites must include non-optional taxes, duties, fees and charges that apply to all or most buyers so as to prevent drip pricing. Drip pricing refers to a practice whereby elements of the prices are not revealed upfront, and the total price is only revealed at the very end of the buying process or post-confirmation of purchase. This creates ambiguity around the final price as well as prevents easy price comparisons. Hence incomplete price representations upfront would be considered misleading.

    Example: A consumer orders a snack from an online food delivery platform where a price of Rs. 100 is shown, but the final amount payable comes to Rs. 175 as it additionally includes taxes, delivery fees, platform convenience fees and other such charges. If such charges are common for all or most consumers, they must be included in the displayed prices on the listing ad itself.

  2. Bait and Switch:

    When an ad or an element in the ad directly or indirectly implies one outcome based on the consumer’s action, but instead serves an alternative outcome, the same would be considered misleading. Examples:

    1. A consumer may select a product offered at a certain price but is thereafter only able to access the same product at a higher price.
    2. Another example is offering an attractive product and later revealing that it is out of stock, offering an alternative product.
    3. Changing the meaning of key symbols to mean the opposite. For example, an X on the top right corner of the ad, instead of closing an app, may open up the app, or do the very action that the user was trying to avoid. The X on the top right is commonly understood by consumers to mean “close”. But in this specific interaction, the X means “accept/ proceed”. This would be deemed to mislead the consumer.
  3. False Urgency:

    Stating or implying that quantities of a particular product or service are (e.g. airline seats available at a certain price) more limited than they actually are would amount to misleading consumers. In the case of any complaint, the advertisers would be required to demonstrate that the stock position at the time of the appearance of the limited quantity message was of a level where the urgency communicated could not be considered misleading.

  4. Disguised Ads:

    An advertisement that is of a similar format as editorial or organic content must clearly disclose that it is an ad. Examples could be influencer posts, paid reviews, and ads placed in a manner to appear like editorial content.

These guidelines will be applicable from 1st September 2023.

Chairman

Board of Governors, ASCI
May 11th 2023

Preamble:

In recent years, charities have been active advertisers, particularly on digital media, and
especially for the purpose of seeking funds and crowdfunding on behalf of their
beneficiaries. It may be noted that many such beneficiaries may not have an active social
network to reach and tap donors. Charities, including crowdfunding platforms, provide
this reach through sponsored ads and organic posts, which tap potential donors.

However, there have been some concerns about ads that create donor distress through
the use of images that may be too graphic. While the intent of such posts is undoubtedly
to nudge donors to contribute, such posts may cause undue distress to ordinary
consumers who may be surfing through their news feeds.

Charities can have a challenging job explaining the nature of the important, and often
sensitive, work they do in a way that educates, but doesn’t distress, their audience. While
many people may feel a powerful and sometimes negative reaction to these types of ads,
conversely, many could feel that the worthwhile nature of the charities means that
greater scope should be afforded to them to use hard-hitting themes and images.

It’s perfectly understandable that charitable organisations want to do everything possible
to raise awareness and funds for their causes. However, they must take care not to
overstep the mark by misleading consumers or causing unjustified distress. ASCI’s
Chapter 1 requires ads to be honest and truthful, and Chapter 2 requires them not to
cause grave or widespread harm or offence. In order for ads to be compliant with the ASCI
code, advertisements related to charitable causes must adhere to the following
guidelines.

  1. An advertisement for a charitable organization or crowdsourcing platform for charity
    shall not overtly or pointedly suggest that anyone who doesn’t support the charity fails
    in their responsibility or should feel ashamed.
  2. Advertisements must not disrespect the dignity of those on whose behalf an appeal is
    being made, by any means, including showing graphic images of victims in distress,
    particularly children and minors. An advertiser must be able to produce evidence of
    express consent for the use of images of beneficiaries if asked to do so.
  3. In digital advertising, any image shown in the ad that could cause unjustified distress
    to an ordinary consumer, must be blurred and made visible only to those interested in
    clicking and knowing more.
  4. When an appeal is made for a specific case or a specific beneficiary, the ad must
    disclose if the funds could potentially be used for other purposes or other
    beneficiaries. Ads must not mislead consumers about where or to whom their
    donations are going
  5. If a crowdsourcing platform collects a percentage or fee for managing or raising donor
    funds, it must be made clear what such amounts are in the advertisement itself.

Chairman

Board of Governors, ASCI
June 13th 2023