Mis­lead­ing Ads, Celebri­ties, Ac­count­abil­ity, and Self-Reg­u­la­tion

Consumer Voice - - Feature -

Most of us have been vic­tims of de­cep­tive ad­ver­tis­ing. This in it­self is not quite sur­pris­ing, con­sid­er­ing the sheer vol­ume of commercial mes­sages that daily try to reach us one way or the other, via im­ages that are in­tended to per­suade/ca­jole/tempt. What we see and hear is the in­for­ma­tion most likely to per­suade us – the fine print re­mains, well, the fine print. Com­pa­nies may bury any­thing in the fine print – con­tra­dic­tory in­for­ma­tion, half in­for­ma­tion, additional cost, and so on. And when celebri­ties en­ter the pic­ture, what brands achieve is not just im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion but also a more read­ily per­suaded au­di­ence. As the thin line be­tween fact and fic­tion blurs, the ques­tion is one of ‘how much re­spon­si­bil­ity where’.

To­day, con­sumers come across more than 1,500 ads daily and celebri­ties lend huge cred­i­bil­ity to brands and help in break­ing clut­ter and draw­ing un­di­vided at­ten­tion of the tar­get au­di­ence. Celebri­ties en­joy their share of mass adu­la­tion and ap­pear more per­sua­sive than or­di­nary people when they speak highly of cer­tain com­modi­ties. Ad­ver­tis­ing in­volv­ing celebri­ties is un­doubt­edly more pop­u­lar than those with­out them. Log­i­cally then, if a celebrity speaks for a fake com­mod­ity, he or she should bear li­a­bil­ity for the dam­ages it may cause to con­sumers. Or, shouldn’t they?

Some crit­ics feel celebri­ties are also or­di­nary hu­man be­ings and so it's im­pos­si­ble for them to be

An advertisement be­comes de­cep­tive when it mis­leads people, al­ters the re­al­ity and af­fects buy­ing be­hav­iour. The de­cep­tion may in­clude a mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion, an omis­sion, or a prac­tice that is likely to mis­lead.

aware of all as­pects of new prod­ucts. They do not have the means to ex­am­ine the qual­ity of cer­tain prod­ucts. There­fore, celebri­ties should not be held ac­count­able for the prod­ucts they speak for. If con­sumers buy the prod­uct only be­cause a celebrity has en­dorsed it, they are not be­ing wise. En­sur­ing prod­uct qual­ity is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of pro­duc­ers and sales agents and also qual­ity watch­dogs, but has noth­ing to do with ad­ver­tis­ing spokesper­sons.

This de­bate picked up when ac­tor Amitabh Bachchan cre­ated a furor with his lec­ture at In­dian In­sti­tute of Man­age­ment-Ahmed­abad, where he said that he stopped en­dors­ing Pepsi af­ter a lit­tle girl asked him why he pro­moted some­thing that her teacher termed as ‘poi­son’. Un­til then, he had been as­so­ci­ated with the brand for eight years. Will this mean that celebri­ties will now check con­tents of the prod­uct be­fore en­dors­ing it?

Whether or not they want to, soon they may have to. In Fe­bru­ary this year, the Cen­tral Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Coun­cil (CCPC), un­der the chair­man­ship of min­is­ter of con­sumer af­fairs, food & pub­lic dis­tri­bu­tion KV Thomas, de­cided to set up a sub­com­mit­tee to sug­gest strate­gies to deal with erring ad­ver­tis­ers. Among the con­cerns raised was ped­dling of prod­ucts by celebri­ties.

Ear­lier on, in Novem­ber 2012, the Food Safety and Stan­dards Author­ity of In­dia (FSSAI) had is­sued notices to 38 top-sell­ing brands ask­ing them to with­draw their ‘mis­lead­ing’ ad­ver­tise­ments. The brands in­cluded Com­plan, which claimed that one could grow two times by us­ing the prod­uct, and Kel­logg’s, which claimed that ‘re­search shows that people who eat low-fat break­fast like Kel­logg's Spe­cial K tend to be slim­mer than those who don't.’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.