New advertising guidelines in India to force brands to operate in a more ethical manner

July 1, 2014

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has issued guidelines on the advertising of fairness and skin-lightening creams in an effort to curb the spread of misleading ideas and discrimination, according to the council’s website.

The new rules now specify that advertising cannot communicate any discrimination based on skin colour nor can it use post-production visual effects to exaggerate product efficacy, amongst others.

Embracing diversity

Skin whiteners and lighteners make up the largest segment of the facial care market in India. According to Mintel’s GMN, the segment was worth INR23.3 billion (£233.2 million) and accounted for 46% of the retail facial care market in India in 2012. The segment is even popular with men, for whom there are now separate fairness products.

Indian consumers’ preference for fair skin can sometimes be to the point of obsession. Advertising in this segment very often equates fair skin with success, and sometimes goes to the extent of portraying people with darker skin as being unattractive or unhappy. There are growing concerns of how these fairness products are perpetuating the belief that dark skin is inferior. The ASCI’s new regulations are in response to these concerns. There have been awareness campaigns in the past highlighting the discrimination faced by people with darker skin in India, but this is the first time that a national body has stepped in to ensure some balance.

We’ve seen how across the world, there is an increasing demand for a more realistic portrayal of models in beauty advertising. Global brands have also now started to embrace the diversity in the population and cater to them in a more sensitive way. The ASCI’s new guidelines could go a long way in cutting down the exploitative and discriminatory message of skin-whitening products and force brands to operate in a more ethical manner.

Ranjana Sundaresan
Ranjana Sundaresan

Ranjana is Mintel’s Senior Research Analyst based in Mumbai. She specialises in analysing global consumer trends—with an Indian focus—and global trend observations.

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