Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

New advertisers need to genuinely believe in responsible advertising: ASCI CEO

Manisha Kapoor, who has been associated with the industry body since 2015 says that she is looking to spearhead various education and advisory-related initiatives

Published: Apr 13, 2022 03:32:11 PM IST
Updated: Apr 13, 2022 07:26:01 PM IST

New advertisers need to genuinely believe in responsible advertising: ASCI CEO

Manisha Kapoor, CEO, The Advertising Standards Council of India 

Advertising industry regulator The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has elevated its secretary general Manisha Kapoor as CEO. The newly created role is aimed at making ASCI future-ready as it plans to go beyond its mandate of tracking and flagging misleading ads across sectors.

Kapoor, who has been associated with the industry body since 2015, says that she is looking to spearhead various education and advisory related initiatives being planned. In an exclusive interaction with Storyboard18, she talks about the new role, challenges and how technology is changing the way brands advertise.

Edited excerpts.

Q. What was the need of this new role?

In the last two years, ASCI, as an organisation, has been undergoing a fair amount of transformation in the way we see our role in the industry. We are a voice for consumer protection but we are also guiding the industry to become more responsible. The new role is reflective of ASCI becoming more proactive while handling the dual responsibility of consumer protection and guiding the industry to become more responsible when it comes to advertising.

As part of my new mandate, I’ll look to streamline our guidelines and processes, the way we are communicating to the advertisers and how we are enabling complainants to make it easy for them to lodge a complaint but also at the same time I’ll also look into the launch of some of our services (advertiser advice or influencer due-diligence). We are undertaking the kind of tasks that we haven’t taken before; the new position is reflective of that.

Q. How will your mandate change?

We are looking at expanding the footprint of ASCI in terms of launching new services and bringing out analytical reports. We will also look at expanding the team as and when certain services take off. A larger portion of my time will certainly be spent on insights, ways of engaging different stakeholders more deeply (government, consumer organisation, new age advertisers like gaming, cryptocurrency). I will be looking out to make ASCI more future-ready.

Q. What kind of new services is ASCI looking to launch?

These new services will be largely in the area of advisory. We want to drive a culture of responsibility in the industry. So far, the industry is used to ASCI flagging issues in advertising once it’s out. But now we wish to involve advertisers in creating responsible advertising from an early stage during the creative development process. We wish to make organisations understand that due diligence should be a part of their creative process.

In global markets such as Europe, consumer protection is an important concern whether it is from the perspective of the regulator or the government. We also found that regulators globally offer 30 percent to 50 percent more number of advisory services as compared to the complaints they handle, which helps the industry shift their way of working. That’s the role we would want to take to help the industry become more responsible. 

Q. Do you think with the setting up of the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA), ASCI needed to evolve into something more?

Any organisation needs to evolve with time. Globally, the regulator and the self-regulator work together. I think this model that is evolving where the self-regulator tends to work by extension. It covers a gamut of things which includes advisory services, screening of complaints and the government comes in in the area of non-compliance and takes actions. That’s the model which has yet not been established in India in a full and formal sense but that’s the kind of solution we can look at.

A lot of ministries often call us when there is something to do with misleading ads in their sector. That’s what we wish to build upon as we become the leading voice when it comes to advertising, self-regulation. We also wish to give a big push to education whether it’s targeted at students, young people in the industry, middle-management. We are looking to do workshops with all stakeholders to inform them about our codes. We want to raise the standard of responsibility in advertising.

Q. What are your key challenges?

There are sectors which are emerging as an interplay between technology, media and entertainment. So, whether it is health, finance or food, technology is changing all these categories in a big way and therefore a whole new set of advertisers are emerging. These are people who are starting to discover and deploy marketing in a new way.

One of the challenges will be to ensure that these new advertisers carry the sense of responsibility in an environment where everything is so ephemeral that campaigns can come and go in a matter of minutes and brands are continuously morphing.

The pace at which consumers are interacting with brands is at a different level altogether so the biggest challenge is to track misleading ads, create awareness among consumers and advertisers. The biggest challenge for a regulator is to regulate something which is fast changing.