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New Ad Guidelines Take On India's Skin Whitening Industry

New guidelines take on India's multi-million dollar skin whitening industry, demanding ads stop portraying darker skinned people as unattractive.
Image: Pond's commercial starring Priyanka Chopra, Saif Ali Khan and Neha Dhupia
Pond's commercial starring Priyanka Chopra, Saif Ali Khan and Neha Dhupia.Youtube

The Advertising Standards Council of India introduced sweeping new guidelines late last month which - if successful - will change the way darker-skinned Indians are depicted in advertisements.

“Advertising should not communicate any discrimination as a result of skin colour,” reads the introduction to the independent watchdog group’s guidelines. “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.”

The Advertising Standards Council’s guidelines seem to directly target the trend in skin lightening ads that portray darker Indians as unemployable or unlovable until they decide to purchase a bleaching agent.

For generations, Indian television and print ads have portrayed lighter skin tones as desirable and the market for skin-whitening creams has grown to a $500 million industry. Ads for the creams - which frequently star big-name Bollywood stars - regularly portray light skin as the key to finding happiness.

The ad below from Pond’s India, for example, features stars Saif Ali Khan and Priyanka Chopra and promises users that they will obtain a “pinkish-white glow."

Several major manufacturers, including Hindustan Unilever and Proctor & Gamble, have said that they will abide by the new guidelines.