Companies go silent after condom ad restriction to 10 pm-6 am slot

Published On: 13, Dec 2017 | Source: business-standard.com

Key manufacturers in India, including Reckitt Benckiser, Mankind Pharma, and Alkem Laboratories, have opted to steer clear from reacting to the directive issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting regarding telecast of advertisements.
 
The only exception has been TTK, maker of Skore condoms, who said a restriction on telecast timing was unfair. “Not all ads are vulgar and the authorities should differentiate between what is suitable and unsuitable for viewing. A blanket restriction (on all ads) is inappropriate at a time when awareness (of condoms) is needed,” said Vishal Vyas, general manager, marketing, TTK Protective Devices.

 
On Monday, the ministry had issued an advisory asking TV channels to restrict ads to the 10 pm-6 am slot. This came following public complaints regarding Mankind’s ad for Manforce condoms, which many said was unsuitable for viewership by children when broadcast during general hours.
 
The ad, which features actor Sunny Leone, had been ticked off earlier as being vulgar during the Navratri season in Gujarat. At that time, Mankind, counted among the leading players in India, had been forced to pull down the ad. 
 
On Tuesday, repeated attempts to reach the company for their comments on the latest directive were infructuous. Reckitt — which makes Durex and Kohinoor condoms — on the other hand, said it was not in a position to comment since it had not received a copy of the directive. Alkem was not immediately available for comment when contacted.
 
It is unclear whether manufacturers will contest the government’s directive, since it could, say experts, disrupt business owing to their inability to communicate their brand’s message during regular hours. The move, incidentally, was mooted as far back as 2015, sources said, with the government doing it now, led in part by the initiative of the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). It was ASCI, said sources, that had highlighted the need to cap advertising of brands to the late night-early morning slot.
 
Consumer activists such as Jehangir Gai, however, say that directives such as these are ineffective since children today use mobile phones exposing them to the risk of pornographic content. “While the intent (of the government) is noble, I am not sure whether these measures really help. Children can still be exposed to vulgar content even if they don’t watch TV,” he says. “And that is a bigger risk.”
 
In June, the government had ordered blocking 857 porn websites, triggering a debate on internet censorship. It had also said it would put in place an ombudsman to look into cyber-content issues. Yet, India is among the top countries for adult websites, with the traffic growing year-on-year, according to experts.