Abanti Sankaranarayanan is new ASCI chairman

MUMBAI: Abanti Sankaranarayanan, former vice chairman of Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC), was unanimously elected as chairman of Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) at the board meeting held immediately after the AGM.

As the member of the board of governors for four years, Sankaranarayanan, also chief strategy & corporate affairs officer at Diageo India and member of its executive committee, is an accomplished business leader, having steered pivotal roles across functions in the consumer products and luxury industry for over two decades now.

PepsiCo India Holdings chairman & CEO D. Shivakumar was elected as vice chairman while media brands CEO Shashidhar Sinha was re-appointed as the treasurer.

Other members of the board of governors are Al Rajwani (MD & CEO, Procter & Gamble Hygiene and Health Care), Benoy Roychowdhury (ED, HT Media), Gurmit Singh (VP – India Business, Oath), N.S. Rajan (Global Partner & MD, Ketchum Sampark), Narendra Ambwani (Director, Agro Tech Foods), Prashant Singh (MD, Nielsen India Region), Raj Jain (CEO, Bennett, Coleman & Co.), Rohit Gupta (president – Network Sales & International Business, Sony Pictures Networks India), Sandeep Kohli (ED & VP, Personal Care, Hindustan Unilever), S.K. Palekar (Adjunct Professor & Advisor – executive education, Institute of Management Technology), Srinivasan K. Swamy (chairman & MD, R K Swamy BBDO), Subhash Kamath (managing partner, BBH Comms India) and Sunil Lulla (chairman & MD, Grey Group – India).

S. K. Swamy, the outgoing Chairman of ASCI, said, “2016-17 has been an interesting year for ASCI as it marked some impressive advancements. In a noteworthy achievement, ASCI received positive re-enforcement for the role it plays as a self-regulatory body in a landmark Supreme Court Judgement. Renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with The Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) which is currently on its third year, and the signing of two new MOUs with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the Ministry of AYUSH, has collectively proven credibility ASCI enjoys with the Government. Other noteworthy aspects include ASCI being included as an Expert Committee member to look into matters pertaining to advertising of High Fat Sugar and Salt (HFSS) foods and Sugar Sweetened beverages (SSBs), and as a key stakeholder in the committee constituted by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). ASCI is now a part of the Executive Committee of International Council on Ad Self-Regulation (ICAS). Interestingly ASCI was a Gold winner at Global EASA’s Best Practice Awards for its mobile app, a service that was introduced in 2016. Another significant step was introduction of an Independent Review Process by a retired Supreme Court/High Court Judge, when CCC decisions are sought to be reviewed by affected advertisers. Guidelines were issued relating to Celebrity endorsements of products/services given the importance consumers attach to such association. I’m delighted to have been an enabler for this year’s journey for ASCI and I’m sure the Council will take proactive steps in the cause of self-regulation in advertising”.

The incoming chairman, Abanti Sankaranarayanan said, “ASCI has seen a remarkable year on year progress through formalised collaborations with various regulators, notable recognitions from eminent external organisations, further facilitation of robust codes and guidelines and swifter processes to promote the cause of self-regulation in advertising. I feel privileged to be elected as Chairman of ASCI and I’m elated to take over as the torch bearer for several more successful initiatives and significantly contribute to effective self-regulation in advertising. It’s heartening to see ASCI’s relentless efforts being recognised by the judicial body, prominent regulators and government bodies and we shall take all efforts to continue to keep it so. Core to ASCI’s mission to ensure protection of the interests of consumers, through supporting Honesty, Decency, Responsibility and Fairness in Advertising, ASCI shall carry on to keep true with its consumer focused tagline, “So you can trust advertising”.

During the year 2016-17, the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) constituted by ASCI as an independent body (which has majority of its members drawn from civil society members like consumer activists, lawyers, doctors, educationists) met 49 times and deliberated on complaints against a total of 2300 advertisements. Of these, complaints on 1242 advertisements were upheld, while 454 were not upheld.

The significant increase in the number of complaints as compared to 2015-16 numbers (1389) is largely due to ASCI’s Suo Moto Monitoring project viz. National Advertisement Monitoring Services (NAMS) that was restarted in April 2016 after a gap of one year. ASCI has also started referring advertisements that the CCC considers to be, prima facie, in violation to The Drugs & Magic Remedies Act or The Drugs & Cosmetics Rules to the Ministry of AYUSH or the Ministry of Health, as the case may be. This ensures that the concerned regulator is alerted about the existence of such advertisements and they can initiate prompt action. There were 373 such advertisements falling in this category.

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