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Advertising Governing Body Cracks The Whip On Fairness Product Ads; Issues New Guidelines

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Sometimes people are beautiful.
Not in looks.
Not in what they say.
Just in what they are.

– Markus Zusak, I am the Messenger

Have you ever observed or felt how obsessed we Indians are with fair skin? The best example would be to read the matrimonial postings, which most of the time requires “slim, homely and fair girl” for their sons. Most of the Indians associate the color white being superior, maybe because of the colonial hangover which we are still breeding.

Taking advantage of such mentality are companies which sell ‘fairness’ products, and are earning millions by attacking this vulnerability of Indians: they assure that you will get the white skin you desire by buying their products.

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Such fairness product companies create advertisements which deliberately show fair girls and boys having unprecedented success in everything: fair girls get good husbands, they get great jobs, they are popular in colleges and in one instance, being fair means you can become the next King Khan of Bollywood.

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ASCI or Advertising Standards Council of India has taken a strong note of this unethical and totally biased advertisements, and have cracked the whip on such companies. Taking the matter seriously, they have now issued guidelines for advertising such fairness products in India.

Founded in 1985, ASCI is a self-regulatory body which ensures the protection of the interests of consumers, and it operates via assistance from Advertisers, Advertising Agencies, Media and PR world.

Observing the ‘unfair’ means by which fairness product companies project being fair as a solution of all problems, ASCI said, “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.”

As per the existing rules and regulations of the Indian government, no advertisement should deride caste, color, race, creed or nationality of any human being, yet the existing advertisements are openly flouting all these rules while creating ads.

The New Advertisement Guidelines include:

  • Fairness product companies cannot create advertisements which “communicate any discrimination as a result of skin color”. Negative social stereotyping of dark colored skin should not be reinforced via these ads.
  • Advertisements cannot show that dark skinned people are unhappy, depressed, unattractive and helpless.
  • Advertisements should not use post-production effects on the models to show them fairer and more ‘white’ as a result of using such products. Additionally “the expression of the model/s pre and post usage of the product both in the real and graphical representation should be the same.”

It took Nandita Das and Chennai-based Kavitha Emmanuel, founder-director of “Women of Worth” to create a campaign called “Dark Is Beautiful” to spread the message that fair skin is not the solution of all problems in life. The campaign informed that being dark skin is not a disadvantage!

Kavitha had to launch this special campaign after she received tons of letters from girls stating how they were being discriminated based on their skin colors.

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During 2009, Kavitha had shared, “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.”

Hopefully, advertisements for such fairness products will change, and they will adapt a more practical and realistic approach to sell their products.

You can read the new guidelines issues by ASCI here.

  1. […] Fairness Cream advertisements, which promise instant glory and fame due to a whitening of skin leads the pack of such immoral, and false commercial propaganda. Infact, ASCI had to issue special guidelines for such Fairness Cream ads, considering how celebrities, both male and female, openly endorse them. […]

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