While Twitterati and several other people on other social media platforms denounced Jack & Jones's "sexist" advertisement featuring Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh after it was slammed by Tamil actor Siddharth and the ad was eventually pulled down, it may be a sobering exercise to take stock of some other advertisements misinforming and misleading the public.
Releasing its data on November 21, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) said that in August 2016, the ASCI's Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) upheld complaints against 152 out of 209 advertisements. Though many prominent brands feature in the list, one similar advertisement promoting casual sexism in the workplace like the Jack & Jones ad that made the cut in the CCC's list was none other than TimesJobs.com, which describes itself as the nation's leading job portal.
Describing its observation, the advertisement industry watchdog held that the advertisement "is suggestive, objectifies women and indecent in the depiction of woman which is likely, in the light of generally prevailing standards of decency, to cause grave and widespread offence." It also made a similar observation in a follow-up ad.
An even more concerning fact embedded in the ASCI's finding is that among the 152 complaints upheld by them, 66 instances were of education category, followed by 27 belonging to the healthcare category. The list also included 17 in the food and beverages category, 10 in personal care category, five in clothing and accessories category and 27 advertisements from other categories.
The overwhelming cause for misleading advertisements for educational institutions was found out to be exaggerated, unsubstantiated, unverified and misleading claims that guaranteed to provide 100% placement/AND/OR they claim to be the No.1 in their respective fields. Although a more exhaustive list can be found here, some of the well-known names in the list included: Lovely Professional University, Sharda University, Pearl Academy, Frankfinn institute of Air Hostess Training and SRM university.
Out of the 27 advertisements from the healthcare category whose advertisements were also pulled up for marketing products in a misleading manner, a peculiar trend was observed. Many of these advertisements that were pulled up by the ASCI were found to be in violation of the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act that more specifically, in these cases, concern the prohibition of advertising of drugs and remedies for improving or maintaining the capacity for sexual pleasure.
Advertisements of companies and products such as Olefia Biopharma Limited (Votif Range of Products), Chetan Clinic, Nurture Health Care (Ayurex S Capsule) , Jippo African Capsule and African Oil, Amba Health Clinic, and German Homeo Laboratories Pvt. Ltd. (German Homeo Laboratory) that claimed to provide cures for a range of sexual problems were included in the ASCI list.
Claims such as "Nightfall, Premature Ejaculation, Sexual weakness in Men", "Masturbation, Pen** Disorders, Weakness in Nerves", "You can get rid of loose thin and crooked Pen**", "Itchiness in your sexual Organs", "Low Sperm Count", "Ovarian Cyst", "Leucorrhoea White Discharge", "Sagging of Sexual Organs", "Lack of Sexual Desire", "Irregular Periods", "Make you small, loose, underdeveloped chest into a shapely, beautiful and attractive one", "Enhance your Feminity" and "Improve Husband Wife Relationship" etc. were reported as unsubstantiated after examination of the use of products were found to be inefficacious, besides being in violation of the Act.
So how are they still allowed to market and advertise these products?
The answer can be found in what prominent sexologist Dr. Narayana Reddy explained to the Hindu: "The law provides them enough room to escape. Section 33EEC of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940 exempts drugs manufactured by vaidyas or hakims... for the use of their own patients from any regulation. Thus, as long as the quack sells his medicine to patients who come to him of their own accord, no standards or safety regulations apply."