The pitch for ethical advertising is getting louder. Around 240 individuals, including 50-60 industry leaders, have signed a pledge to create advertising with a conscience.
Industry representatives, under the banner of the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), took the pledge to sensitize younger advertising professionals about creating responsible campaigns. CEOs and mid-level managers across sectors and advertising agencies have come forward to support the movement, which began last week at the GoaFest, an annual conclave of advertisers and creative agencies.
This follows the efforts of leading multinational food companies like Coca-Cola India, Hindustan Unilever, Nestle, PepsiCo, Kellogg's and General Mills, which had voluntarily committed to change food advertising for children last year.
"ASCI has been spreading awareness on self-regulation in advertising for many years. We felt the need to broaden the scope so that leaders can act as inspirational role models for youngsters in the industry who are eventually going to create the advertisements," said Rajiv Dube, chairman, ASCI.
When a Colvyn Harris, CEO, JWT, or an Arvind Sharma, chairman and CEO, Leo Burnett, or a Mayank Pareek, managing executive officer (sales and marketing), Maruti, takes the pledge, they send out a strong message to the younger team members to create responsible advertising.
ASCI, which has been a self-regulator in advertising for 25 years, has been creating awareness among people over the last few years to come forward and register complaints against advertisements which they feel are misleading, dishonest, unfair or not in good taste. "We have now felt the need to sensitize the young people who join this advertising industry in great numbers every year about creating advertisements with a conscience. The aim is to build consumer confidence in advertising," said Sam Balsara, chairman, Madison World.
While 240 individuals have already taken the pledge, Balsara, who is also a consultative committee member of ASCI, said the council would continue to plead with the industry so that more leaders and individuals come forward to take the pledge.
The pledge reads: "To my organization, business associates, industry and to society at large, I pledge to ensure honesty & truthfulness, decency in advertising, non-exploitation of vulnerable sections of society especially children, fairness in competition. I commit myself to advertising with a conscience."
The CEOs of seven food companies, in a pledge signed last year, had decided to implement company-specific voluntary measures to meet the objective. These measures were in support of parental efforts to promote healthy lifestyles. The companies also agreed that there would be no communication related to products in primary schools, except for the products that fulfil specific nutrition criteria.