Celebrity management companies
are predictably unhappy with the new law, arguing that holding celebrities accountable is an overreach. “I am not saying that celebrities should not do due diligence before picking up an endorsement. But holding them responsible for the misleading claim is not correct,” the chief executive of a popular celebrity management firm based in Mumbai said, requesting anonymity.
Amitabh Bachchan helms the Muthoot Finance campaign on gold loans among many others
But the Advertising
Standards Council of India (ASCI), which is the sector regulator, says that it was time that misleading claims especially in categories such as education, health care, digital services and teleshopping are checked. “We expect to see a significant impact in the control of misleading ads with the new Consumer Protection Act,” Rohit Gupta, chairman, ASCI, said. “We will soon be launching a monitoring service of potentially misleading ads appearing in digital media, in addition to print and TV surveillance that already exists. We see our role as being complementary and promoting responsible advertising,” he said.
The importance of celebrity endorsements is on the rise (see box) as the pandemic has intensified the rush for trusted faces whose words carry weight. A recent report by TAM AdEX shows that there was a 63 per cent rise in volumes of celebrity-endorsed ads on television in June 2020 versus April of this year.
Experts say that the dependence on celebrity endorsers
will only grow as consumers seek familiar labels and trusted names. “These are tough times and brands that have high recall and resonate with consumers will find greater traction,” says Arvind Singhal, chairman, Technopak.
This means that brands that have already built a name in the market will advertise more, but with messages that signal their relevance in the current crisis (either as a means of prevention or as a source of succor). If an actor or a sports star can back the claims that the brands make, the message will reach wider and be more acceptable.
Hence the rush for a famous face to helm the brand. TAM Adex says that in the month of June, cricketer Virat Kohli
topped the list of most-visible celebrities on television, spending an average of 10 hours per day across TV channels. Actor Akshay Kumar followed, while actor Kareena Kapoor
Khan was the third-most visible celebrity on television.
Chandramouli says that while advertisers will increasingly turn to celebrity endorsers
in the post-Covid-19 world, scrutiny and debate of endorsements will also grow, following implementation of the new consumer protection law. “For once, I believe, there is a serious endeavour to keep the consumers’ interest in mind when it comes to misleading claims,” he says. How far this initiative will go is anybody’s guess. Till then, endorsers and brands will err on the side of caution.