An amusingly large number of consumers in the country, about 80 per cent, do not notice disclaimers in advertisements, the Advertising Standards Council of India has found in a survey. It also found that the main reason for this consumer behaviour is the “over-use of disclaimers” which makes it difficult for people to understand all the information in the ad.
ASCI said 33 per cent of consumers could not understand the disclaimers clearly even after they were given adequate exposure time. Further, 62 per cent Indians felt that the disclaimers are “excessively long”.
In the past three years, ASCI has processed over 800 advertisements which were found to be in violation of the disclaimer guidelines.
“While ASCI has had disclaimer guidelines since 2016, it was observed that over-use of disclaimers made it difficult for consumers to understand all the information presented in the ad,” said Manisha Kapoor, CEO and secretary-general of ASCI. “This is evident from our survey where 80 per cent of consumers did not even notice the disclaimers.”
Kapoor said it is important that claims are crafted in a way that minimises the need for qualificatory disclaimers. Where disclaimers are needed, they should be presented in a manner that is easily understood.
In response to the findings, ASCI has updated its guidelines for disclaimers made in supporting, limiting or explaining claims made in advertisements.
Under the updated guidelines, the advertisers are required to use suitable disclaimers to properly explain and support claims made in advertisements to ensure that consumers can read all the information presented.
The Consumer Complaints Council (CCC), during their meetings, have also observed that sometimes, the frame of the advertisement that contains the disclaimer was very crowded, and distracted the viewer’s focus.
The use of disclaimer should be kept to a minimum. “Long or otherwise complex disclaimers with large blocks of text and difficult words are a deterrent to viewers attempting to read the contents of the disclaimer. In such cases advertisers should modify the headline claim to reduce the need for further qualification through disclaimer,” it said.
In television commercials or any other video advertisement on digital media, all disclaimers should be clearly readable to consumers.
Moreover, there should not be more than one disclaimer in a single frame in an advertisement.
“A disclaimer should not attempt to suppress material information with respect to the claim, the omission/absence of which is likely to make the advertisement deceptive or conceal its commercial intent,” the guidelines said.
It added that a disclaimer should not attempt to correct a misleading claim made in an ad. Also, it should be in the same language as that of the claim/s of the ad. In case of bilingual advertisements, the disclaimer should be in the dominant language of the advertisement.