In a welcome move, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has updated its advertising standards code in a manner that makes advertisements more inclusive and less discriminatory. A post on its LinkedIn page says, “ASCI bats for greater inclusion in advertising. The code now calls out derision on gender identity, sexual orientation, body type, age or physical and mental conditions.”
The addition to Chapter 3 of ‘The Code for Self-Regulation of Advertising Content in India’ pertains to advertisements that cause harm. It reads as follows: “3.1. No advertisement shall be permitted which: (b) Derides any individual or group on the basis of race, caste, colour, religion, gender, body shape, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental conditions or nationality.”
ASCI added, “As a future-facing organisation, ASCI works to ensure that its guidelines keep pace with the ever-evolving society. As consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about unfavourable depictions of certain sections of society, this change ensures that advertising keeps pace with these rightful expectations.”
There was already a rule that forbade disparaging copy or visuals on the basis of caste, creed, race, gender or nationality. However, stereotypical imagery like large sized individuals, gender fluid individuals and others who made personal choices out of the ‘normal’ continued to play a part in some ads, much to the discomfiture of those who believe in freedom of choice.
The ASCI, which was established in 1985, says the code is its “commitment to honest Advertising and to fair competition in the market-place. It stands for the protection of the legitimate interests of consumers and all concerned with Advertising - Advertisers, Media, Advertising Agencies and others who help in the creation or placement of advertisements.”
The organisation says it has “one overarching goal: to maintain and enhance the public confidence in advertising, and to ensure that advertisements conform to its Code for Self-Regulation which requires advertisements to be: truthful and Honest to consumers and competitors, non-offensive to the public by remaining within the bounds of generally accepted standards of public decency and propriety, [ensure that] harmful products or situations are not used indiscriminately for the promotion of products, hazardous or harmful to society or to individuals particularly minors, and to be fair in competition.
The latest addition goes a long way in upholding all this.