Call for digital ad guidance

9 September 2013
NEW DELHI: Leading marketers in India have welcomed moves by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) to include guidance about digital advertising within its remit and have suggested options for it to consider.

As reported in Campaign India, three online ads and one broadcast on YouTube were included in the 144 complaints that the ASCI upheld in June 2013 and therefore marketers believe it is time for online ad guidance to be clarified.

Arvind Sharma, ASCI chairman and also CEO of Leo Burnett India, said it was early days but that the ASCI aimed to report substantive progress over the next few months, especially as Rajan Anandan from Google is advising its board.

He said that the distinction between content and advertising can be far less clear than for traditional formats. For example, "if a Facebook user reposts an ad on his page, is it content or advertising?" he asked.

Ravi Rao, the South Asia head of Mindshare, agreed that guidance is needed to avert the risk of false claims going unchecked and recommended that India adopt the code of conduct employed by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which mostly covers Europe and the US.

"ASCI should constitute a similar mechanism with a separate committee of digital and communications experts to drive a set of code of ethics and monitor it regularly, before a hue and cry occurs in public or government and media space," he said.

Adoption of a stringent regulatory framework, as used in Europe, was also recommended by Madan Sanglikar, co-founder and MD of ad2c.

He thought this was necessary because self-regulation would not work in India as its digital advertising industry is still not "mature enough", even though it has been in existence for over a decade.

He said: "We could look at taking these international guidelines and opening up a public debate to create a framework which is suitable for the Indian market."

The issue is becoming increasingly pressing as online advertising in India continues to expand at a rapid rate. Warc has calculated that internet adspend grew 68.2% to 15.6bn rupees in 2012.

Data sourced from Campaign India; additional content by Warc staff
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