The Council has now updated its guidelines for Disclaimers in advertisements after observing the multiple violations in the past three years.
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), has updated its “Guidelines for Disclaimers made in supporting, limiting or explaining claims made in advertisements”. The ASCI code requires that suitable disclaimers be used to properly explain and support claims made in advertisements to ensure that consumers can read all the information presented.
In the past three years, ASCI has processed over 800 advertisements which were found to be in violation of the disclaimer guidelines.
In a recent survey carried out by ASCI with 130 consumers, it was observed that:
1. 80% of respondents did not notice the disclaimer.
2. 33% could not understand the disclaimers clearly even after adequate exposure time had been provided.
3. 62% of respondents felt that the disclaimer was excessively long.
The Consumer Complaints Council (CCC), during their meetings, have also observed that sometimes, the frame of the advertisement that contains the disclaimer was very crowded, and distracted the viewer’s focus.
To address these issues, the Guidelines for Disclaimers made in supporting, limiting or explaining claims made in advertisements have been amended by ASCI after consultation with stakeholders. The key additions to the existing disclaimer guidelines are as follows:
• The use of disclaimer should be kept to a minimum. Long or otherwise complex disclaimers with large blocks of text and difficult words are a deterrent to viewers attempting to read the contents of the disclaimer. In such cases, advertisers should modify the headline claim to reduce the need for further qualification through disclaimers.
• Hold duration and readability of disclaimer – In television commercials or any other video advertisement on digital media, all disclaimers should be clearly readable to consumers.
In a single frame in an advertisement:
• There should not be more than one disclaimer.
• The disclaimer should be restricted to two full length lines and remain on screen for more than four seconds for every line.
• For regulatory requirements where the disclaimer exceeds two lines additional hold duration should be accounted for. For the purposes of calculating the duration of hold of disclaimers, all forms of text appearing on screen at any one point in time should be counted. This includes both disclaimer text and any text content in the main ad creative regardless of where on screen it appears and whether or not it is repeated in audio.
Other key facets of the disclaimer guidelines which remain unchanged are:
• A Disclaimer can expand or clarify a claim, make qualifications, or resolve ambiguities, to explain the claim in further detail, but should not contradict/modify the material claim made nor contradict the main message conveyed by the advertiser or change the dictionary meaning of the words used in the claim as received or perceived by a consumer.
• A disclaimer should not attempt to suppress material information with respect to the claim, the omission / absence of which is likely to make the advertisement deceptive or conceal its commercial intent.
• A disclaimer should not attempt to correct a misleading claim made in an Advertisement.
• A disclaimer shall be in the same language as that of the claim/s of the Advertisement. In case of bilingual advertisements, the disclaimer should be in the dominant language of the advertisement.
Commenting on the changes, Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary-General, ASCI said, “While ASCI has had disclaimer guidelines since 2016, it was observed that over-use of disclaimers made it difficult for consumers to understand all the information presented in the ad. This is evident from our survey where 80% of consumers did not even notice the disclaimers. Hence, it is important that claims are crafted in a way that minimizes the need for qualificatory disclaimers. Where disclaimers are needed, they should be presented in a manner that someone who is interested in reading them has the opportunity to do so.”