A few days ago ASCI (Advertising Regulatory body) pulled up several corporates for misleading ads. And now the government plans to make it a crime!
The new bill proposes hefty fines (for corporates, and for any celeb endorsing the misleading ads. Jail terms are for the corporates. And for celebrities…the bill provides for a significant fine and a ban on doing other ads.
For the first offence, “the fine will be up to Rs 10 lakh and a one-year ban on any endorsement. For the second offence, the fine will be up to Rs 50 lakh and up to three years ban…However, for manufacturers and companies, the penalty is up to Rs 10 lakh and up to two years in jail for the first offence. ” And if they do it again, the fine will go up to Rs 50 lakh and five years jail.
All that ASCI could do earlier was force corporates to pull down the ads, and if they didn’t, then pressurise the media to stop featuring all ads from that particular company. The companies didn’t take it seriously. Now the government believes that stringent punishment is needed.
Sure, educated and aware people can afford to laugh at ads in which Aishwarya Rai uses a fairness soap (White Glow) or Shah Rukh Khan receives a basket of goods from Big Basket. But it’s not always so innocuous. There is the case of a reputed actor like Pierce Brosnan endorsing paan masala. Even when it comes to less harmful products, there are enough gullible people out there who will buy the product thinking that his/her favourite celebrity is using it.
The malaise of misleading ads goes beyond just being cheated into buying products which don’t live up to their name. It can harm public health. One advertisement which made me indignant was one where instant noodles were being touted as a substitute for roti and sabji.
Now that the government has made a law, they should make it work. If bribes are taken by lawmakers, it will defeat the very purpose of this law. Implementation has to be honest. And let us hope that the corporates and celebs quake in their shoes.