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Predatory marketing on TV

Over the last decade, Indian consumers have been deluged by the mushrooming growth of innumerable so-called ‘teleshopping’ businesses.

business Updated: Feb 27, 2011 23:01 IST
Paritosh Joshi

Over the last decade, Indian consumers have been deluged by the mushrooming growth of innumerable so-called ‘teleshopping’ businesses. Products offered on these virtual store-fronts have little in common with what you would expect to find on the high street. Some actual product related quotes go like this:

Nazar Suraksha Kawach is blessed with so much extraordinary energy and power that it can guard and protects your family against the strongest super-natural forces, negative powers and evil looks.

Height Increaser: your growth potential reduces especially after puberty because your pituitary gland becomes inactive. With Height Increaser you can reactivate your pituitary gland. Besides using Height Increaser to stimulate your pituitary gland, it is also important for you to rejuvenate and revitalise your growth plate to increase your metabolism rate at the same time.

There’s a single theme that runs through all these claims: the consumer is plagued by a set of adverse, seemingly insurmountable circumstances. The vendor offers a magical remedy to make them disappear. We have a term for such behaviour: predatory marketing. The vendor is nothing less than a ruthless predator, unencumbered by ethics and accountability. He’s a cynical adherent of the Barnum aphorism, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

As new businesses from the organised sector begin to enter the TV homeshopping market, they must begin a process of mending this yawning trust deficit with by now wary consumers.

After years of being reviled for being sensationalist, tabloidesque, exploitative, biased and inaccurate, the Indian news TV broadcasters, under the News Broadcasters’ Association (NBA), are defining a code of ethics and broadcasting standards for news; establishing a self-regulatory body, the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA); and inviting viewer complaints to the NBSA for offensive, incorrect or inappropriate news.

The entertainment television industry’s Indian Broadcasting Foundation is working with the government to come up with a code of content and a self-regulatory body.

Unlike entertainment and news TV, teleshopping actually enters into a direct, commercial transaction with the consumer.

Broadly, here are some areas that necessarily need to be addressed in teleshopping:

n Content: verifiability of all claims in recognised, scientific, replicable protocols; personal testimonial bearers willing to provide affidavits to the effect to legal scrutiny; and demonstrations of claims and benefits

n Product: complies with nationally recognised safety standards for the category; complies with legally prescribed labeling standards; manufacturer; ingredients declaration; legal metrology and standards of Weights and Measures; maximum retail price

n Protection of consumer rights: enforceable warranties/ guarantees; fair and transparent complaint redressal mechanisms at manufacturer and industry levels; rigorous compliance with all laws, statutes and regulations.

The writer is CEO, STAR CJ Alive