I think the power of great advertising sometimes lies in its capacity to make you accept something that is so obviously against common sense.
Take this advertisement for Surf Excel which emphasizes over and over again:
"Daag achche hain" ( Stain is good).The whole story is so cute with the big brother ( well, a little bigger than the girl) shadow boxing with the dirty puddle to pacify his sister to whom he is the hero and the kids are so convincing that you are willing to forgive the sparkling white uniforms turning muddy.

It is a different story altogether if you would be willing to forgive the manufacturer if the detergent did not really remove all that stain.
Is there any recourse for the consumer to actually make the manufacturer's pay for false claims in their advertisement?
apparently yes!!
"An advertisement may scream and extol the virtues of a hair lotion or a beauty cream. When that very lotion fails to grow even a single strand of hair or the beauty cream does not impart even a trace of beauty to that not-so-good looking one, the shine in the advertisement disappears.
What does a buyer do then apart from crying aloud, 'This is unfair!'?
Rising to the occasion, the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act and the more recent Consumer Protection Act incorporate provisions relating to unfair trade practices.
Quite often false representations are made, e.g. the goods (like beauty creams, hair tonics, hair dyes, etc.) are of a particular standard quality, quantity, grade or composition. Sometimes, tall claims are even made regarding the uses, benefits, approval, sponsorship or performance of such goods or services. If the goods supplied or the services rendered do not live up to the expectations created by the advertisements in the mind of the consumer, a complaint can be filed alleging that the seller or service provider has adopted an unfair trade practice.
The Consumer Disputes Redressal Agencies (Consumer Forums) can order the return to the complainant of the price or charge paid and the discontinuation of the unfair trade practice. They can also direct that corrective advertisements be issued to neutralize the effects of the misleading advertisement and their expenses to be borne by the person responsible for issuing the misleading advertisement."
Read on here

So it is possible to have other remedies than just the proverbial wringing your hands in despair. Does this also mean that the tall claims that people make in their advertisements about magical fairness creams and hair growth lotions and anti-ageing creams is actually true? Or is there a fine print disclaimer somewhere that actually protects them from being dragged to the consumer forum?
Anyone knows? anyone cares? Have advertisements themselves become oases of creativity betweeen mindless serials to be watched for their own sake rather than as means to promote a product that the linkage is actually forgotten or ignored?
11 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    I do agree that many Ads hardly reflect the actuality of a product.. but then, not often is a typical Indian consumer bothered about spending his time and energy trying to find the reality behind those products unless he gets seriously affected in some way because of using it..

    Talking of creativity in ads, at times, ads are so creative that the ad stays longer in memory than the product.. brand recall virtually becoming nil... but there are also those recent kind of ads which focus on the "feel" that one gets because of the product.. they dont even talk of the features of the product..

    for eg., snuggies diapers.. first 3 seconds we hear a baby cry.. next 3 we hear a baby laugh and the caption reads "choose what u want to hear" and puts up a pic of the diapers.. :) not a word uttered but the message beautifully conveyed... :)

  2. hari Says:

    Hi Usha,

    The problem in India is not inadequacy of laws, the problem is ignorance of the laws leading to the bigger problem of lack of enforcement of laws.

    People going to the USA talk so much about about laws protecting citizens against govt. negligence etc, fails to read our own law books wherein the provisions are very much there. The problem is we become responsible citizens only once we leave India.

  3. Mahadevan Says:

    I enjoy only the catchy copywrite in some of the advertisements. For buying, one has to be guided by experience. As generally we are not legal rights conscious, we don't even look for legal remedies.

  4. Harish Says:

    I think that ads/commercials are now more brand placement media. It brings to our attention the existence of a product that claims to do certain things. In an ideal world, we would be able to trust them. As it stands, the consumer has no excuse for not researching/reviewing a product before purchase. Of course, there are the early-adopters who suffer... but they also have the potential upside of having bragging rights to a potentially great product.

  5. It's good to know about the laws that are there for such cases, even if most of the time companies can get away with anything...

    As for HLL, it's not the first time they're doing this. They were in trouble a decade back with the nimub-ki-shakti ad, when an individual asked to see where the nimbu was in all that Wheel detergent!

  6. Alapana Says:

    Yesterday i gave a presentation of Consumer Protection Act and today i read about it here:) If only we took the laws seriously and act accordingly,but unfortunately more than half of the population have no idea abt such laws and rest of them mostly donot care or choose to suffer. and yeah,the Surf ad is sure cute and so are the hutch and SBI ads:)

  7. Psyche Says:

    Fairness cream ads. Man, they should ban them for more reasons than one, if you ask me. No matter which I look at it, it seems wrong wrong wrong.

    But you know, if you looked at this whole thing from the manufacturer's angle, there is no other way to sell. You cant possibly say, "This cream will give you a matted, pasted look and ultimately give you skin cancer".

    They probably are hoping you are gullible enuf to buy it, but smart enuf not to use it and un-informed enuf not to sue them if you did land up using it :)

  8. daydreamer Says:


    what about lines like "conditions apply" or "results may vary" etc.. dont u think the manufacturers are protected to some extent by adding the above.

  9. Shiv Says:

    yeah...few ads really captivate you so well..Like the one where the tea cup cries saying...U forgot me..This was an ad for a biscuit..Dont remember the name though..

  10. Paavai Says:

    satthar prathishad mahilayen . is the line that manufacturers hide behind. never it is sou prathishad mahilayen

  11. Usha Says:

    I agree with your brand recall comment - see shiv's comment where she says I love the biscuit ad where the tea in the cup feels ignored and cries. Ya, I love that ad but have no idea which biscuit it is promoting!
    If there is no brand recall, it beats me why the manufacturer would spend so much money on the advertisement however creati9ve it turns out to be..
    I love that diaper ad and have you noticed almost all ads using kids are extremely good?

    Hari: I agree with you. I also think that a common man who has buses to catch and traffic to contend with and attendance to sign is worried about gettting himself into a long legal tangle if he intends to pursue anything legally - so he would rather drop the issue and go and buy another product.

    Mahadevan; That is what we all do. begs the question again? what is the main purpose of these ads then? Just a creative expression of a handful of ad professionals?

    Harish: I agree with you especially in the case of white goods. But what about personal hygiene and beauty products? Only usage can reveal its effectiveness for your type of skin, your chemical composition!

    Hermit chords: really!And yet they never tire of trying it again.

    alaap: I'd love to see that paper. I agree.Oh I love th Hutch ad - well, who doesnt. and the song..

    Daydreamer: Exactly , as paavai says later they'd tell you it was tested on 57 people and it worked on 45. If it doesn't work on you you know wher eyou belong!

    Psyche: Were n't the fairness cream ads dragged to court by some woemn's organisations? eah, makes me want to laugh that in a country like India , dark skin would not be acceptable!

    Shiv: That is so true.Oh ya, I love that ad too. which biscuit is that?

    Paavai: how convenient no?