Days after Bollywood actor Abhay Deol created a storm by calling out celebrities who endorse fairness products, the advertising industryâ€™s self-regulatory body has now issued guidelines on endorsements.
The ad regulator stated that celebrities have a huge responsibility in ensuring that the products they endorse are true to their claims.
According to the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), the guidelines will help in ensuring that claims made in advertising are not misleading, false or go unsubstantiated.
The guidelines put the onus of making celebrities, featuring in any advertisement, aware of the ASCI code on the advertiser and the agency.
"Celebrity should do due diligence to ensure that all description, claims and comparisons made in the advertisements they appear in or endorse are capable of being objectively ascertained and capable of substantiation and should not mislead or appear deceptive," the ad regulator said in its guidelines.
Products such as fairness creams, paan masala, those that claim to cure ailments or diseases, or even those that allegedly have magical powers can now come under the scanner of the ad watchdog.
Apart from stars in the world of entertainment and sports, celebrities will also include well-known personalities like doctors, authors, activists, educationists, etc. who get compensated for appearing in the advertisement.
Srinivasan K Swamy, Chairman, ASCI, said, "Celebrities have a strong influence on consumers and are guided by the choices they make or endorse. It's important that both celebrities and advertisers are cognizant of the impact and power of advertising and therefore make responsible claims to promote products or services."
"It is in the interest of advertisers, ad agencies as well as celebrities to be aware of these guidelines and be sensitized to this issue to avoid violations," he added.
Celebrities are also barred from endorsing products, treatments or remedies that are prohibited for advertising under The Drugs & Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act 1954, The Drugs & Cosmetic Act 1940 and Rules 1945: (Schedule J) and any product which legally requires a health warning "â€¦..is injurious to health" on its packaging or advertisement.
The Drugs and Magic Remedies Act, 1954 prohibits the advertisement of remedies alleged to possess any charm or magic qualities, something teleshopping advertisements are infamous for.
"We get 100% compliance from television advertisers but teleshopping campaigns continue to be a huge grey area. Celebrities, perhaps out of ignorance, endorse products on teleshopping channels which promote self-medication and might also not be authentic," Shweta Purandare, secretary general, ASCI, told Live Mint.
Celebrities will have to be extra careful before endorsing products which may potentially be harmful to health, such as paan-masala.
Currently, a number of A-list stars including Ajay Devgn, Shah Rukh Khan and Sunny Leone, feature in paan-masala ads, points out the LiveMint report.
"Even if itâ€™s surrogate advertising, celebrities should be cautious about endorsing such products. Besides, they should also be wary about promoting categories such as real estate and financial services, where claims can easily change with time. It is better to be safe than sorry," Srinivasan K Swamy told the publication.