Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), a self regulatory body, has introduced a new initiative called “Suspension Pending Investigation” (SPI), as per which, advertisements which are seen as in serious breach of ASCI’s code, either being gravely obscene, indecent, vulgar or against public interest will now be required to be withdrawn immediately pending decision of its Consumer Complaint Council (CCC). The body says that it recently amended its Articles of Association to provide for “Suspension pending Investigation”, in line with the Codes of some of similar bodies like the Advertising Standards Authority of the UK.

The Advertising Standards Council of India is self regulatory voluntary organization of the advertising industry, and includes most major advertisers, all major advertising agencies, most mainstream media publications (and hence their online counterparts). The only pure-play digital entity we noticed is Google India; Google India MD Rajan Anandan was, in fact, appointed to the ASCI board in 2011.

Why this development is worth noting for the digital industry is that the new Article in the AoA on “Suspension pending Investigation” is independent of media of delivery, hence can be assumed to include digital. The ASCI proactively only monitors TV and Print, though. So, any action in the digital domain depends on whether anybody complains about a digital advertisement to the ASCI. The Article on “Suspension pending Investigation” states:

“In exceptional circumstances, when it appears prima facie that an advertisement is in serious breach of the Code and it’s (sic) continued transmission on/ through/ by any medium causes or has the effect of causing public harm and/or injury or its continuation is against public interest, then ASCI would, pending investigation and decision by CCC, forthwith require the advertiser/ the advertising agency/ the media buying agency and the media concerned to immediately suspend the release of advertisement.

In the event of suspension of any advertisement in the manner as aforesaid, the CCC shall at the earliest and not later than 30 days from the date of the suspension, adjudicate whether or not the advertisement is in breach of the Code and pass appropriate order accordingly after giving a reasonable opportunity to hear to the advertiser whose advertisement has been suspended. This decision of the suspension is to be taken by the Chairman (or, in his absence, the Vice Chairman) of ASCI, in consultation with two members of the CCC.”

As an aside, is the IAMAI or any Advertising industry body doing anything about the issues around payment to publishers for advertisers, or are they just sitting on it?