Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) Health-Related Decisions and Recommendations, September, 2012

January 25, 2017

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) is a voluntary, self-regulatory organization for India’s advertising industry. The council and its Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) evaluate complaints from consumers and industry which assert that advertisements are false, misleading, indecent, illegal, leading to unsafe practices, and/or or unfair to competition, and therefore violate the ASCI Code for Self-Regulation in Advertising. In September, the complaints that were upheld against health-related claims included:

  • GLAXOSMITHKLINE PHARMACEUTICALS LTD (*) – Rota Virus Vaccine: As per the complaint, the TVC says “the vaccine is the only way to reduce the incidence of infection and the fact that techniques like hand washing do not help”. This is a misrepresentation of facts. Rota virus is spread by ingestion of the virus from contaminated food and water. Hygiene helps reduce the spread of infection. The vaccine causes a fivefold increase in intussusceptions, a serious surgical condition that can result in death if not treated urgently. This is not explained in the advertisement. The issues raised by the vaccine are complex and it cannot be allowed to issue a ‘direct to public’ advertisement in this misleading fashion. The CCC concluded that, the claim “Vaccine is the only way to reduce the incidence of infection,” was inadequately substantiated. And the statement, “Rota virus vaccine is the only way to treat Rota Virus” was misleading. The advertisement contravened Chapters I.1 and I.4 of the Code.
  • HINDUSTAN UNILEVER LIMITED (*) – Pepsodent Expert Protection Toothpaste: As per the complaint, the TVC claimed that “for effective cleaning in between teeth, we should use dental floss”. The TVC also demonstrates how the dental floss needs to be used to clean in between teeth and implies that by using Pepsodent Expert Protection toothpaste, one would get the same cleaning benefit as provided by dental floss. The TVC further claimed that Pepsodent Expert Protection toothpaste “contains germi-paste, floss-like inter dental action and long lasting freshening mouthwash.” The implications of these claims with regard to dental floss are – (1) Instead of using dental floss, use Pepsodent Expert Protection toothpaste which provides effective inter dental cleaning i.e. effective cleaning in between teeth. (2) This also goes contrary to dentists’ advice that one should use dental floss for effective cleaning in between teeth. The CCC concluded that the visual depiction of the toothpaste having the triple benefit of a toothpaste, floss and mouthwash, was not adequately substantiated. The advertisement contravened Chapter I.1 of the Code

    HINDUSTAN UNILEVER LTD (*) – Dove Hair Fall Rescue Treatment: As per the complaint, the TVC claims that, unlike other shampoos, Dove’s rescue treatment nourishes hair and make the roots strong in just two weeks. The CCC considered the technical data provided by the advertiser and concluded that the following claims were not substantiated: (a) C”78% hair fall roots se hota hai,” was based on a test conducted in UK in 2008. This number is not representative for India. (b) “Naya Dove Hair Fall Rescue Treatment – yeh balon ko nourish karein” (visual of action surrounding the hair bulb), “Super – Nourishes from the roots* (qualifier – *Action in epidermal region.). The visual does not match with the super and shows nourishment below epidermal level. (c) Data provided by the advertiser for “helps lock my hair to the roots, only in two weeks, gives freedom from hair fall worries,” did not adequately substantiate the claim. Therefore the advertisement contravened Chapter I.1 of the Code.

  • KIMBERLY-CLARK LEVER LTD (*) – Huggies Total Protection Diapers: As per the complaint, the TVC claims that, “The New diaper from Huggies is clinically proven”. This claim is qualified by a super that states, “Highly breathable diapers have been proven to reduce prevalence of diaper rash Akin et al Pediatric Dermatology 2001”. The pack claims, “Clinically proven to help prevent diaper rash”. The TVC claim and the pack claim misleads the consumers into believing that a proper clinical test has been conducted on Huggies Total Protection diaper whereas in reality there is no clinical data on Huggies to support the claims. The claim, “Huggies clinically proven” is a very broad claim and covers all the variants of Huggies. The super stated in the TVC does not comply with the Guidelines laid down by ASCI. Also the super is blurred and illegible from a consumer point of view. The advertisement contravened Chapter I.4 of the ASCI Code as substation provide for”clinically proven” claim is neither representative not adequately relevant given that testing was carried out in a different country with different climatic conditions and for a different product variant of the brand.
  • REGENCY HOSPITAL LTD – As per the complaint, in the print advertisement, it has been claimed that the Regency Hospital promotes treatment for growing hair naturally in one day. This claim needs to be substantiated with statistical and other necessary data. The CCC concluded that the claims mentioned in the advertisement were inadequately substantiated. The advertisement contravened Chapter I.1 of the Code.
  • REJUVENATION CENTRE – As per the complaint in the print advertisement, the advertiser claims that Rejuvenation Centre “gives relief from knee pain without any surgery, 100% cure, no side effect, no need to get admitted in hospital, it gives remarkable results, which is not seen in any other treatment and also effective in curing stiffness in shoulders, cervical, back pain and wrist pain”. The advertiser needs to substantiate these claims with supporting clinical information and with details of reports of tests/ trials conducted by an independent recognized testing institution. In the absence of clinical data from the advertiser, the claims made in the advertisement and cited in the complaint were not substantiated. The advertisement contravened Chapter I.1 of the Code.