MS Dhoni To Mamaearth: Here Are Top Ad-Code Defaulters

Virat Kohli and actor Jim Sarbh were also named in the influencers list, for their advertisements with Mobile Premier League.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>MS Dhoni on the WinZO website. (Source: company website)</p></div>
MS Dhoni on the WinZO website. (Source: company website)

The gaming sector surpassed the education and personal care sectors to be the largest violator of advertising standards and the least compliant, according to India's ad watchdog.

The Advertising Standards Council of India, a self-regulatory body of the Indian advertising industry, released its annual complaints report 2022–23, naming the top offenders among brands, influencers and celebrities that were found breaching advertising standards laid by the body.

The ASCI flags ads if they are found to be:

  • Dishonest and misleading.

  • Indecent or offensive.

  • Harmful.

  • Unfair in competition.

The ASCI's code is part of the advertising code enshrined within the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act, providing it with a legal backstop.

It takes cognisance of these ads either by itself or if reported by members of the public. It then works with firms to tweak ads, either at a pre-production stage or later on to avert misleading or false claims.

ASCI looks at advertisements across all media types and formats such as TV, print, digital, outdoor, radio, point of sale, claims made on packaging and so on.

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Here Are Key Highlights From The Report:

Sourav Ganguly, MS Dhoni, Bhuvan Bam Pulled Up

Among celebrities and influencers, former Indian men's cricket team captains Mahindra Singh Dhoni and Sourav Ganguly, and Youtuber Bhuvan Bam ranked among the top defaulters.

Bam and Dhoni were pulled up for 17 advertisements with WinZO Games, an online gaming platform. Both were signed on as brand ambassadors by WinZO in 2022.

Ganguly's name pops up in the influencers list, with his advertisements with Magik Lighting, Livinguard and Xiaomi Technology India Pvt. being identified as non-compliant.

Cricketer Virat Kohli and actor Jim Sarbh were also named in the influencers list, for their advertisements with Mobile Premier League or MPL.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Bhuvan Bam on the WinZO website. (Source: Company website)</p></div>

Bhuvan Bam on the WinZO website. (Source: Company website)

The ASCI found that in 97% of cases, celebrities have failed to provide evidence of due diligence in spite of the Consumer Protection Act now legally requiring celebrities to do so when they appear in ads.

The ad watchdog said it witnessed 503 complaints regarding ads featuring celebrities in 2022–23—a nearly tenfold rise in comparison to 55 ads in the previous year.

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Top Offenders Among Brands

The ASCI named Brainy Bucks Games Pvt., the operator of fantasy gaming platform FSL11, as the topmost offender with the highest number of non-compliant ads at 247.

As many as 15 non-compliant influencers were found to be associated with Mamaearth, the most by a single brand.

Other notable companies mentioned were Nykaa, Apple Inc. and MPL.

For Apple, Bollywood actor Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, YouTuber Gaurav Chaudhary or Technical Guruji, content creator Viraj Ghelani and Shlok Srivastava or Techburner were among the 11 influencers who were pulled up.

In total, 7,928 ads were scrutinised by the ASCI, a figure that has doubled in the last two years.

Violative Sectors

Apart from gaming and education, healthcare, personal care and crypto were some other key violative sectors.

Real-money gaming takes the top spot among problematic ads. The ASCI launched the Guidelines for Real Money Gaming Ads in December 2021, keeping in mind the extent and seriousness of harm it could bring upon consumers, considering the financial risk involved. It said 92% of the ads missed adding the required disclaimer that informs consumers of the financial and addiction risks.

Over 50% of the gaming ads that required modification have not complied with the Consumer Complaints Council recommendations and have been forwarded to relevant regulatory authorities for further action in accordance with the laws for consumer protection, according to the ASCI.