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India’s ad standards council finally cracks down on skin lightening ads


India’s ad standards council finally cracks down on skin lightening ads


The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), a self-regulatory body for the advertising industry in India, has released a set of guidelines for the advertising of skin lightening and ‘fairness’ products.

After seeking industry and public feedback to a draft it had issued in June, the ASCI says its new guidelines will, “go a long way in ensuring that advertisements of products in this category do not depict people with dark skin as somehow inferior to those who are fairer”.


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The ASCI released the following guidelines to be used when creating and assessing advertisements in this category:

  • “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, in a way which is widely seen as, unattractive, unhappy, depressed or concerned. These ads should not portray people with darker skin, in a way which is widely seen 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.
  • “In the pre-usage depiction of product, special care should be taken to ensure that the expression of the model/s in the real and graphical representation should not be negative in a way which is widely seen as unattractive, unhappy, depressed or concerned.
  • “Advertising should not associate darker or lighter colour skin with any particular socio- economic strata, caste, community, religion, profession or ethnicity.
  • “Advertising should not perpetuate gender based discrimination because of skin colour.”


Commenting on the new guidelines, Partha Rakshit, chairman of ASCI, said in a statement to media: “Setting up these new guidelines for the skin lightening and fairness products will help advertisers comply with ASCI code’s Chapter III 1 b which states that advertisements should not deride any race, caste, colour, creed or nationality. Given how widespread the advertising for fairness and skin lightening products is and the concerns of different stakeholders in society, ASCI saw the need to set up specific guidelines for this product category.

“As a self-regulating body, it is important to have the advertisers’ buy-in to the guidelines, and we are happy to note that both the industry and the consumer activists’ groups have welcomed these guidelines.”

Under the new guidelines, many previous campaigns by consumer goods giants Unilever and P&G would come under scrutiny, such as the following spots for Unilever’s Fair & Lovely brand, and P&G’s Olay Natural White brand.

Peter Roper

Editor of Marketing and Marketing Mag from 2013 to 2017. Tweets as @pete_arrr.

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