The Advertising Standards Council of India (‘ASCI’) recently released the Guidelines for Advertisements for Charitable Causes. There has been a significant rise (in the recent past) in the number of charity-related advertisements on digital media including crowdfunding initiatives, online fundraising campaigns through sponsored ads and organic posts all aimed at engaging potential donors. While the intention behind such advertisements is to encourage contributions and raise awareness, there have been concerns regarding usage of excessively graphic images in certain advertisements which would potentially cause distress amongst ordinary consumers. The objective behind the introduction of these Guidelines by the ASCI is to strike a harmonious balance between raising awareness and funds for important causes and at the same time to ensure that the consumers are not unduly influenced to donate and are not subject to emotional duress.
The guidelines introduced by the ASCI as regards advertisements related to charitable causes are listed below:
- A charitable organization or crowdsourcing platform in their advertisements should refrain from directly or strongly implying that individuals who don’t support the charity fail in their responsibility or ought to be feel ashamed.
- Advertisements should maintain the dignity of those for whom an appeal is made and must avoid any form of disrespect, such as using graphic images of distressed victims, especially children and minors. Further, advertisers (if asked to do so) must be able to furnish evidence of express consent for the use of images featuring beneficiaries.
- Any image displayed in a digital advertisement that has the potential to cause unwarranted distress to an ordinary consumer should be blurred and made visible only to those who indicate interest by clicking and seeking further information.
- When an appeal is made for a specific case or a specific beneficiary, the advertisement must disclose whether the funds could potentially be utilized for other purposes or for other beneficiaries. Advertisements should not mislead consumers about where or to whom their donations are going.
- If a percentage or a fee is being charged by a crowdsourcing platform for handling or raising donor funds, these amounts must be disclosed in the advertisements itself.