Celebrity endorsements through personal tweets, blogs, posts or other testimonials should be based on either adequate information about or experience with the product or service being endorsed, according to the draft of the advertising code released by the government.
Any disclaimers in small font size in advertisements and comparative advertising which is not factual will be treated as misleading ads and can be penalised, according to the government's first draft of the advertising code.
The consumer affairs ministry has prepared the guidelines under the Consumer Protection Act and put in the public domain for comments from stakeholders.
"While the proposed guidelines touch upon -- imitation advertising; comparative advertising; bait advertising; surrogate advertising; puffery in advertising; it also includes brand endorsers. Advertisers and their agencies will now have to be more watchful of violations. Abiding by the ASCI code was voluntary, these guidelines now being part of the CPA, makes them enforceable," said Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist and former Asia Marketing head of HP Inc.
However, the guidelines need to be more specific about new aspects of promotions on social media such as influencer marketing. "Do these guidelines cover influencer marketing which has recently exploded remains to be seen," said Kapil Arora, co-chairman and CEO at 82.5 Communications.
"Just about anything that's been written down in this document can be questioned. And everything can be cleverly misinterpreted," said Prathap Suthan, managing partner at Bang In the Middle.
The advertising code has been drafted by the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 and is aimed at curbing unfair trade practices such as misleading claims made by advertisers.
It holds manufacturers, service providers, advertising agencies as well as brand endorsers accountable for any misleading claims. Once notified, these guidelines will cover "all advertising and marketing communications regardless of form, format or medium".