Objectionable or misleading ad? WhatsApp to complain

The Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI) announced the implementation of a key step through which it will not only connect with consumers, but will also use their feedback to tackle advertisements that are misleading or objectionable.

A year ago, the ASCI released their very own mobile app ASCIonline, which was a great hit with consumers. On the back of its success, they are now issuing a number — +91 77100 12345 — where Indian audiences can send WhatsApp messages to complain against adverts that are either deceptive or derogatory.

The number went live on March 10, 2016 with the ASCI Board of Governors lodging Suo Moto complaints using this number.

Speaking about the initiative, Benoy Roychowdhury, Chairman of ASCI, said: “We are happy to launch the WhatsApp number, close to the World Consumer Rights Day (15 March). ASCI is truly empowering consumers by making it more accessible. Today almost every person with a smartphone is using messaging services such as WhatsApp. Technology makes it possible for them to flag false, misleading or offensive ads instantaneously and anytime anywhere while on the go — be it while reading newspapers at home, on their way to office, listening to radio or watching TV in the evening.”

The industry watchdog is promoting this campaign quite aggressively on print as well as radio. Their tagline, “Spot Bad Ad? Snap and WhatsApp +91 77100 12345”, is quite effective in displaying to consumers how simple the entire process of coming forward and reporting negative ads is.

The full scope of the initiative comprises of but is not limited to:

  • Print ads
  • Hoardings
  • Packaging or screen shots of websites
  • Links of YouTube videos

The ASCI intend WhatsApp to serve as only the first touch point for consumers to reach ASCI with their main objections and images of the objectionable adverts. These complaints would then be scrutinised and, if the complaints are found to be valid, the would be further pursued. Complainants would also receive status updates on the complaint through SMS or email

This move is in line with the ASCI’s mission — promoting self-regulation of advertising content and protecting consumers’ interest — because of which they have ensured that the service is absolutely free for consumers and the WhatsApp number is not used commercially at all.