June 11, 2014: Many would have wondered if it is ethical to show dark skinned people as unhappy or depressed with their colour complexion in the ads of different fairness creams. It has always been a point of discussion that these types of ads encourage social discrimination and something should be done to stop it. In a new guideline proposed by Advertising Standards Council of India, “among other things, that ads should not show darkerskinned people as unhappy, depressed, or disadvantaged in any way by skin tone, and should not associate skin colour with any particular socio-economic class, ethnicity or community.”
This new guideline would surely change the face of advertising in the fairness category which includes face washes, creams and lotions. The fairness category in India is valued at Rs.3,000 crore. Though many company representatives have welcomed the move of ASCI but there words are full of caution. Speaking about the guidelines, a spokesperson from Hindustan Unilever was quoted as saying, “We welcome ASCI’s move to further strengthen guidelines. This will help to promote transparency in advertising. These guidelines are currently at a draft stage and have been published for seeking industry inputs.” Another spokesperson from Garnier added that, “We strongly believe advertising should not encourage social discrimination of people based on aspects like the colour of their skin. All Garnier communication focuses on the efficacy of the product and is most importantly, backed by scientific fact. Our conviction is that there is no single model for beauty.”
The fairness market in India which is dominated by brands like Fair & Lovely, Fair & Handsome for men and L’Oreal from Garnier, ASCI had been receiving a lot of complaints against these brands. Speaking about the need for such a guideline, Shweta Purandare, Secretary General, ASCI said, “Over the years, we have come across several complaints against advertisements regarding skin lightening or fairness improvement.” Many a times the complaints were about lack of efficacy and more over exaggerated claims. A lot of campaigns were being run by woman based organisations and other NGO’s on the way people are projected in these ads. Chennai based Women of Worth has been running a campaign around the theme Dark is Beautiful with support from actor and director Nandita Das.
The fresh guidelines from ASCI signals a significant change in the way these product are going to be advertised in future and major companies like Hindustan Unilever and Emami would be forced to change their story board for fairness products.