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


January 26, 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 October, the complaints that were upheld against health-related claims included:

  • GlaxoSmith-Kline Consumer Healthcare Ltd. – Horlicks: As per the complaint, the print advertisement claims, “1 Health Drink, 5 Proven Benefits,” “Clinically proven” with a super “claims based on a study by NIN Hyderabad comparing micronutrients enriched beverage vs non-fortified placebo”. These claims are misleading and unsubstantiated as it does not disclose the year in which the said study was conducted and fails to disclose whether the product tested as part of the study was Horlicks. The advertisement states that, “In an extensive 14-month clinical research involving 869 kids, half the kids were given Horlicks with milk and the other half kids were given an ordinary health drink. As a result of this study, Horlicks kids were found to have more bone area, more muscles, better concentration, more active nutrients and healthier blood. Making Horlicks India’s only health drink shown to improve 5 signs of growth in children.” “Making Horlicks India’s only health drink & shown to improve 5 signs of growth in children”, is false and misleading. The advertiser has failed to disclose the source of any well researched / accepted literature or reputed institute that suggests or recognizes these signs as “signs of growth”. The advertisement does not disclose the manner in which Horlicks provides comprehensive nutrition as has been claimed in the advertisement. The recommendation of Horlicks in every glass of milk is in contradiction with its own recommendation on the pack of Horlicks. Whereas the Horlicks pack, which also makes the same claim of 5 signs of growth, recommends Horlicks to be taken either in milk or water, both the print and the electronic advertisement recommend that Horlicks be taken with milk. The CCC noted that 5 out of the 7 claims did not follow the guidelines prescribed by ASCI.

    It is not clear whether the drink tested in the clinical research was Horlicks. The advertisement refers to the experiment wherein “Horlicks with milk” was given to the children but fails to mention what exactly the beneficial impact of milk is. The reference to the non-fortified placebo is vague as the advertisement states that the clinical research was carried out among 869 kids; half of them were given Horlicks with milk while the rest were given an ordinary health drink. It is not clear what the advertiser is referring to a placebo because an ordinary health drink would also constitute nutrients and that is far different from a “placebo”. It is not clear whether the other half of the kids which were fed with an ordinary health drink/placebo, were fed it with milk of same quantity or composition or otherwise and the benefit thereof were noted thereof. Advertiser must provide the relevant scientific literature to prove that the muscle and bone can be built only with micro nutrients. Advertiser must produce appropriate scientific substantiation that only nutrients that they measured are active nutrients and are responsible for 5 signs of growth. The CCC considered the additional data submitted by the advertiser and concluded that: The print ad states the claims were based on the study by NIN Hyderabad but does not indicate the date of the study. This is in contravention of Chapter I.2 of the ASCI Code. The decision of complaint being UPHELD stands. There was no data to adequately substantiate that the product being advertised has the same composition as the product tested in the clinical studies. This was misleading and contravened Chapter I.4 of the Code. The advertisement also contravened Clause 1 of the Guidelines on Advertising of Food & Beverages directed at children less than 13 years of age. This complaint was UPHELD. The advertiser produced documents from NIN stating that the study was done by them on behest of GSK and that GSK was permitted to use the study for commercial purposes. This complaint was NOT UPHELD. Both the placebo and the product tested were given with milk to children. Hence the complaint that the advertisement fails to mention the beneficial impact of milk was NOT UPHELD. This decision of complaint being NOT UPHELD stands. The comparison of Horlicks with an ordinary health drink (voice over) was made in the advertisement whilst the study compares Horlicks with a non-fortified placebo. This is misleading and contravened Chapter 1.4 of the Code. This decision of complaint being UPHELD stands. The advertiser’s claim that the active nutrients are responsible for the five signs of growth are misleading as it is self-declaration of what the advertiser deems to be the 5 signs of growth and not based on any published data. The claim that muscle and bone can be built with micro nutrients is misleading as it contravened Chapter I.4 of the Code. The advertisement also contravened Clause 1 of the Guidelines on Advertising of Food & Beverages directed at children less than 13 years of age. This complaint was UPHELD. The advertiser failed to provide comparative data of other similar products in order to substantiate the claim that Horlicks is the “only” health drink shown to improve 5 signs of growth in children. This was misleading and contravened Chapter 1.4 of the Code. This decision of complaint being UPHELD stands.

  • Cadilla Healthcare Limited – Everyuth Natural Fairness Face Wash: As per the complaint, the advertiser claims that Everyuth Natural Fairness Face Wash “is the only one to have active mini capsules that clear the skin and make it look fair”. Advertiser needs to provide scientific proof and comparative data in substantiation of the claim. The data submitted by the advertiser is not a technology unique to them. The CCC concluded that the scientific data provided did not adequately support the claim that Everyuth Natural Fairness Face Wash “is the ONLY one to have active mini capsules that clear the skin and make it look fair”. The advertisement contravened Chapter I.1 of the Code.
  • Hindustan Unilever Ltd. – Pepsodent Expert Protection Toothpaste: As per the complaint about the print advertisement, the complainant got the impression that she does not need to use dental floss or mouth wash as Pepsodent Expert Protection Toothpaste claims to provide the same equivalent benefits. On minutely going through this print advertisement, it shows a postscript at the end of the same which cannot be read at all. The CCC noted that the super in the press advertisement did not meet the Guidelines on Supers Size prescribed by ASCI. The CCC noted the advertiser’s assurance that they have stopped the advertisement.
  • VLCC Personal Care Limited – VLCC Health Care Shape Up: As per the complaint, the advertiser claims that VLCC Health Care Shape Up “tones waist in just 3 weeks”. This claim needs to be substantiated with statistical and other necessary data. In the absence of a control group, the clinical data submitted by the advertiser did not adequately substantiate the claim that ‘VLCC Shape Up “tones waist in just 3 weeks.” The advertisement contravened Chapter I.1 of the Code.
  • VLCC Personal Care Limited – VLCC Shape Up Waist and Tummy Trim Gel: As per the complaint, the advertisement claims that, “It complements your regular exercises like walking, dieting, stretching etc. by melting that stubborn fat around the waist & tummy area,” “Natural, safe and easy to use; this gel will help you discover a slimmer you in just 3-6 weeks.” The advertiser should provide supporting technical data, details of tests/trials conducted, with comparative data in substantiation of these claims. The CCC concluded that although the product is positioned as a complementary treatment, the advertisement was considered misleading because it implies that the usage of the product melts fat in specific areas. This has not been adequately substantiated through clinical trials. The advertisement contravened Chapters I.1 and I.4 of the Code.
  • Sahara India TV Network – Sahara Q Shops: As per the complaint, the TVC shows : (1) “a family enjoying their breakfast and suddenly Sachin Tendulkar starts performing the last rites of entire family while carrying a mud pot of water on his left shoulder.” (2) “A mother is giving a body massage to a new born child, and she gets major shock when Virendra Sehwag replaces the cradle of the baby with a hospital bed containing intravenous fluid bottle.” (3) “A gentleman posed as some medical practitioner suggests the purchasing grocery or some other products can cause paralysis, brain damage, cancer, glaucoma, kidney failure, without citing a source, statistics data or research to justify his claims”. This TVC is using fear and scare tactics to sell such products which are already adulteration- free. The TVC shows portrait of young and healthy children in a disturbing manner. The CCC concluded that the claims made in the advertisement and cited in the complaint, were inadequately substantiated, and the advertisement was misleading. The advertisement contravened Chapters I.1 and I.4 of the Code. The CCC noted the advertiser’s advice that the said TVC was discontinued in August 2012.