Government action needed on misleading ads -advertising guru tells IMT-N students

With no checks and balances on private enterprise, misleading ads can’t be stopped, advertising guru Bharat Dabholkar told Institute of Management Technology Nagpurstudents.

“There is no way to stop false advertisements in popular media,” he said. “Government controlled media does have checks and balances, but private enterprises lack that. Also there is no government policy to tackle the problem and all the consumer can do is to complain to the Advertising Standards Council of India, but that too is after the ad has already appeared.”

Noting the unorganized nature of the advertising business and the fact that thousands of advertising agencies operate without any accreditation, Dabholkar said it’s impossible to put a check on advertisements before they reach the public.

“The government has to take this seriously and step in to make a policy, or else nothing can stop misleading ads,” he said.

Dabholkar told the students he believes multinational companies utilize false advertising claims more than their Indian counterparts and outlined two instances when Indian companies refused to compromise their products because then their ad claims would be false.

In the first case, involving the Vicco group’s toothpaste product, he said “I was working on an advertisement for them and I suggested they should add some chemicals for a thicker consistency of the paste, but the owners told me that they use natural products, so the paste has a thinner consistency.

“They refused to add any chemicals since that would falsify their claim to be a company focused on using natural products.”

Dabholkar said of the second case “Even Kurien, the man behind Amul, refused to launch a strawberry-flavoured drink since we could not secure the fruit all year through. Kurien could have used pulp, but then the advertisements would have been technically false so he decided to drop it.”

The Indian economy has really opened up in the last few years with the number of products available growing substantially, said Dabholkar, “So it is bound to happen that the advertisement campaign gets overplayed with the message sought be conveyed also lost in the well.”