Several advertisements have recently sparked debate, with various individuals or groups objecting to them. Because of the sensitivity of our times, the advertising industry’s work has been severely curtailed.
Every year, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) receives hundreds of complaints from Indians who find advertisements offensive.
ASCI looked into 1,759 complaints against 488 advertisements over the last three years to identify trends in such complaints to deconstruct not only the messaging that was found objectionable but also the articulation of the complaint and the desired action requested. The ads covered include those that offended people/groups despite not necessarily violating ASCI codes. As a result, a report titled “What India Takes Offence To” was published, revealing six triggers.
- Commercial gain through socially undesirable depictions: Some ads have reinforced the representation of society that perpetuated unhealthy practices or beliefs solely for commercial gain. For example, advertisements in the field of education that promote stereotypes such as fair skin, certain body shapes, or advertisements that place undue pressure on parents and children.
- Inappropriate for children: This category included advertisements that appeared to pique children’s interest in ‘adult life,’ particularly sexuality and physical intimacy. Parents who were embarrassed or concerned were the majority of the complainants.
- Ads depicting people who appeared to cross-cultural boundaries: The depictions in these ads appeared to cross societal boundaries or mock what was considered sacred in our culture Individualist depictions of youth and women, in particular, were triggers. Some people found many ads that depicted intergenerational dynamics in non-traditional ways to be problematic.
- Some people found ads mocking men are offensive because they depicted men in a negative or poor light, even in humorous or introspective ways.
- Religious sentiments were hurt by advertisements that depicted mixed religious narratives, depictions of new interpretations of traditions, or the use of religious and cultural motifs in a humorous manner. The ads’ intent was questioned by the complainants, who felt the need to guard against ‘conspiracies.’
- Consumers who preferred a more sheltered and ‘civilized’ version of reality complained when everyday life situations were depicted in an in-your-face manner. The display of death, raw meat, or blood tended to irritate these complainants.
The main objective of the report is to provide different stakeholders with a pulse on consumer sentiment. The study delves into the complaints and the complainants to uncover the underlying issues in advertising that annoy Indian citizens and consumers. The report provides insights for brands that may aid in more sensitive creative development.
Advertising Advice is a paid service available to both members and non-members that assists advertisers and brands in determining whether their claims are exaggerated or not during the campaign planning stage. It assists them in determining whether an advertisement may violate any ASCI guidelines.