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The ASCI Academy looks to prevent than become the cure for violative advertising

It is tired of symbolic corrective action after an ad's release, it wants agencies and brands to self-regulate from the ideation stage.

The ‘ASCI Academy’, officially unveiled on 28 August 2023, is nothing but an exercise in literally taking the ‘prevention is better than cure’ phrase to reality.

For the longest time, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), an industry-level self-regulation promoting body, stepped in after an advertisement flouted its guidelines.

No more. The corrective action it took in response to a guilty ad was “symbolic,” said ASCI CEO and secretary-general Manisha Kapoor in a press conference before the unveiling.

She blames this state on the rise of digital ad campaigns and their terribly short duration; before ASCI could evaluate if an ad violated the body’s guidelines, the campaign was over.

Digital ad campaigns make up 80% of ads that breach the ASCI code of conduct when it comes to responsible advertising.

The Academy, through diverse programs and masterclasses, intends to train students, and young and old marketers on responsible advertising, and that self-regulation is best practised right at the ideation level of an ad. Thus, prevention is better than cure.

ASCI Academy counts over 50 founding partners including Coca-Cola India, Hindustan Unilever, Diageo India, Mondelez India, PepsiCo India, Nestle India, and P&G India, among others.

When asked about the lack of mention of advertising agencies, Kapoor said ASCI has not actively engaged in conversations around consumer protection and the academy with agency partners. It will soon engage with them through industry-level advertising bodies such as the ISA, AAAI, IAA and ISWAI.

There is also the question of creative folks and agencies being hostile to the suggestion of thinking of these guidelines when they’re brainstorming an ad’s copy because it would act as a barrier.

Kapoor disagrees saying, “It is not about being a censor.” And she points out that it is not mandatory.

However, “Brands are becoming more and more accountable for what they do. The advertisers fund the entire ecosystem, they are the ones with whom the buck also stops. If an advertiser says I am only going to work with trained influencers, it will happen, and it will become a norm,” she remarks.

Kapoor is confident agencies will be keen on this because “they don’t want their brands’ ads to be pulled up.”