Following a legal battle between Hindustan Unilever Limited and German skincare brand Sebamed, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has reminded advertisers of the need for any comparative advertisements to be “factual and capable of objective substantiation”.

What happened: German skincare brand Sebamed took shots at Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) products in a recent campaign, claiming HUL’s Lux, Pears, and Dove have higher pH levels than claimed and are harmful to sensitive skin. In response, HUL took legal measures resulting in the Bombay High Court restraining Sebamed’s campaign from all media. 

Why it matters: While there have been plans for guidelines to regulate ad content that makes misleading claims, hardball comparative advertising might necessitate tougher rules.

What ASCI says: Manisha Kapoor, Secretary General, ASCI, told WARC in an email that comparative advertisements were permitted “in the spirit of promoting healthy competition and consumer choice”. 

“ASCI believes that it is important that comparative advertisements adhere to certain principles of fairness and honesty,” she stated. “They must not choose points of comparison that confer an artificial advantage. It is also important that the comparisons are factual and capable of objective substantiation”.

She added that advertisements must refrain from denigrating, attacking or discrediting other brands or advertisers.

Sourced from WARC