ASCI cracks the whip on ads for fairness products

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has reacted to the widespread outrage over the advertising message of fairness products,  and proposed a tough new set of guidelines for advertisers

It wasn’t just Nandita Das or the “Dark is Beautiful” group that was outraged. Most people found it unsettling that fairness products are sold by showing darker skin as inferior.

If you wanted a good catch in the marriage market, a great job or to feel more confident, you needed to rub a cream into your skin to become fairer, they said.  While this premise clearly sells – based on the proliferation of new products in the market – it also led to complaints. Most often, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI)'s complaints committee found merit in the complaint and upheld it. The advertisements were withdrawn and a few months later, there was another, which sent out the same message.
It is another matter that India has not become a fairer nation despite millions of tubes being sold to the gullible. But the rising irritation at the tone and message of the advertising did turn on the heat.
A few months ago, ASCI set up a committee to frame new guidelines, which have been put up on its Facebook page ( ) for discussion.

The self regulatory body says, “...There is a strong concern in certain sections of society that advertising of fairness products tends to communicate and perpetuate the notion that dark skin is inferior and undesirable. Yet given how widespread the advertising for fairness and skin lightening products is and the concerns of different stakeholders in society, ASCI therefore felt a need to frame specific guidelines for this product category”.

Here are the new guidelines for advertising fairness products will say -

1. Advertising should not communicate any discrimination as a result of skin colour. These ads should not reinforce negative social stereotyping on the basis of skin colour. Specifically, advertising should not directly or implicitly show people with darker skin as unattractive, unhappy, depressed or concerned. These ads should not portray people with darker skin as at a disadvantage of any kind, or inferior, or unsuccessful in any aspect of life particularly in relation to being attractive to the opposite sex, matrimony, job placement, promotions and other prospects.
2. Advertising should not use post production visual effects on the model/s to show exaggerated product efficacy. The pre- and –post product usage visuals of model/s using special effects should not be dramatized or exaggerated so that efficacy depicted is not drastically different than what can be delivered by the product. Further, the expression of the model/s pre and post usage of the product both in the real and graphical representation should be the same.
3. Advertising should not associate darker or lighter colour skin with any particular socio-economic strata, caste, community, religion, profession or ethnicity.
4. Advertising should not perpetuate gender based discrimination because of skin colour.

On the face of it, the guidelines seem tough enough. If issued as drafted, they will make it tougher for fairness product companies to sell their stuff. However, one can only wait and see if ingenious advertising whiz kids work around the draft.

One of the earliest and most systematic protests against fairness product campaigns,  now extended to men was started by Chennai-based Kavitha Emmanuel, founder-director of Women of Worth, in 2009. She launched the 'Dark is Beautiful” campaign that gained momentum last year when well-known actor Nandita Das lent her voice to it.

The outspoken actor had always lambasted India's obsession with fair skin. "I started getting tonnes of emails from young women pouring their heart out about how they were discriminated against. Some wanted to commit suicide because they couldn't be fair," she told a news agency at that time.

ASCI says its Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) continues to receive the highest number of complaints from the health and personal care category every month.

You may also want to read...

A Pledge to Boycott all Fairness Products in India



Pankaj Sharma

3 years ago

I'm really proud of Nandita das.


3 years ago

after all why such products?i think such products should be banned except those which has a curative value


Davidson D

In Reply to sivasankaran 3 years ago

how do you decide curative value & how authentic would that be? Bulk of these fairness creams have significant side effects which are conveniently hidden.

Investing in stocks and bonds successfully

At a Moneylife event, Debashis Basu, explained in detail all the things that a saver needs to know about how and when to invest in stocks and bonds, given the current market environment

The BSE Sensex and the NSE Nifty continue to hit their all-time highs. A majority of Indian retail investors suddenly feel left out of the market and the new bull run.
However, the question on many savers' minds is, “Is the market now too high to jump into stocks?” or “Should we wait for a 'correction'?” At a Moneylife event titled, “Achche Din for Investors?— Investing successfully in the new regime”, Debashis Basu, editor and publisher of Moneylife, explained all that a saver needs to know about how and when to invest using a methodical approach and what should one expect from the new government.

In the first part of the session, Mr Basu captivated the audience by explaining how the average saver is influenced by the ‘noise’ from the media. Mr Basu spoke about seven facts of the stock market and what an investor should consider for making wise investment decisions.

Many investors seek, and blindly follow, tips and advice that are freely available. Most do not follow due process nor have the discipline to cross-check the facts and invest with conviction. An average investor has generally no clue about what he is buying or selling.
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Vivek Ananth

3 years ago

I agree with the other comment. It would be wonderful if all these resources were put up online. Maybe create a separate 'additional' charge on the membership to make it available. If the content is good, I don't think people will have a problem with paying for it.

Mani T

3 years ago

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Kejriwal, two others granted bail after furnishing personal bond

AAP leaders Kejriwal, Sisodia and Yadav were granted bail in a defamation case after they furnished personal bonds of Rs10,000 each

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and former chief minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal and two other party leaders were on Wednesday granted bail by a Delhi court in a criminal defamation case filed by a lawyer after they furnished personal bonds.


Metropolitan Magistrate Muneesh Garg released Kejriwal, AAP leaders Manish Sisodia and Yogendra Yadav on bail after they appeared before it in pursuance to summons issued against them.


Kejriwal, Sisodia and Yadav, through advocate Rishikesh Kumar, furnished a personal bond of Rs10,000 each. The court has now fixed the matter for 16th August.


The court had earlier summoned them on the complaint of advocate Surender Kumar Sharma under sections 499, 500 (defamation) and 34 (common intention) of the IPC.


It had said there was prima facie material to summon the accused.


“The press release published in newspapers as well as testimonies of witnesses reflect that defamatory remarks were published in the newspaper, which affected the reputation of complainant in the society and lowered his reputation in the eyes of other members of the society,” the court had said.


The court, however, had rejected the complainant’s plea that AAP leaders had conspired and cheated him, saying in the absence of the very element of deception, there was no prima facie material against any of the accused for the offence of cheating and criminal conspiracy.


Sharma had alleged that in 2013 he was approached by the volunteers of AAP who asked him to contest Delhi Assembly election on party ticket as Kejriwal was pleased with his social services.


He filled up the application form for contesting on an AAP ticket and was later on told by Sisodia and Yadav that the Political Affairs Committee of the party had decided to give him the ticket but it was later denied to him.


He started his political campaign and incurred an expense of about Rs five lakh on the campaign, the complaint alleged.


On 14 October 2013, the complainant read articles in leading daily newspapers in which “derogatory and defamatory language” was used against him, adding “defamatory, unlawful and derogatory words used by the accused persons as published in the newspapers have lowered the reputation of the complainant in the Bar and society’’.


The articles had also mentioned that AAP had decided to replace its candidate from the Shahdara Constituency, he said.


The articles quoted a party statement saying that it was found that there were criminal cases and FIRs pending against its candidate (complainant) and that in his application, he had failed to mention about it.


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