Rogue ads most rampant in healthcare

Misleading adsMisleading or false advertising is most rampant in healthcare and personal care space, accounting for more than half the total number of advertisements found to have flouted the compliance norms and code of conduct of the Advertising Standards Council of India.

According to the consumer complaints council of the self-regulatory organisation of the advertising industry, there has been a significant rise in the number of advertisements being recognised as misleading or false or not adequately or scientifically substantiated in the first four months of 2013. Out of 218 complaints registered with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) during this period, 148 were upheld and 52 per cent of these were from the healthcare and personal care sector.

“The maximum number of misleading ads is pertaining to the healthcare and personal care sector,” Arvind Sharma, chairman at ASCI, told ET. Between December 2012 and May 2013, complaints against around 216 advertisements from the sector have been upheld, said Sharma who is chairman, India Subcontinent, for advertising agency Leo Burnett.

To lure consumers, advertisers often exaggerate and make tall claims such as curing diabetes or baldness, reducing weight and increasing height. Consumers of personal care products such as deodorants, anti-aging cream and cosmetics buy these products not just out of need but for the aspirational value they add to their lifestyle as well, an advertising utive said. “While creating that aspirational appeal sometimes advertisers exaggerate,” the person said. Marketing and business consultant Sunil Alagh said not all such ads are completely misleading. “They tend to exaggerate, concealing more than revealing. Technically they are correct but morally they cannot be called right,” he said.

Over 90 per cent of complaints ASCI receives are against advertisements from small unorganised players which make claims like curing diabetes, kidney stones, blood pressure among others. Such claims need to be substantiated with necessary scientific support, past records, research or clinical data or market research and analysis.

Consumers in smaller markets tend to get influenced by such claims. “The volume of such ads in the regional media is very large,” ASCI’s Sharma said. “We are trying to bring this to the notice of the concerned authorities and requesting them to take action against such practices.” After healthcare and personal care sector, it is the education industry that bring out the most number of misleading ads.

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