Brands around the world make loads of money from their skin lightening products, but that's going to be more difficult in at least one country going forward: The Advertising Standards Council of India has banned commercials and ads that make people who have darker skin seem "unsuccessful in any aspect of life particularly in relation to being attractive to the opposite sex, matrimony, job placement, promotions and other prospects."
In a recently released memo, ASCI outlined four guidelines for advertisers:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Advertising should not associate darker or lighter colour skin with any particular socio-economic strata, caste, community, religion, profession or ethnicity.
4. Advertising should not perpetuate gender based discrimination because of skin colour.
ASIC already had a ban against commercials that clearly target people because of their race, class, gender, etc. but wrote in the memo that they felt it was necessary that they more specifically outline what that should look like.
As the Wall Street Journal reports, these guidelines will hopefully change the way beauty companies market their products. Many ads for skin lightening products – like Fair & Lovely Winter Fairness Cream from Unilever or Olay Natural White Cream from Proctor & Gamble – only present people as successful in relationships or at work after they use these creams.
"Because of the proliferation of products — more than a dozen brands and even for men — there was a need to say something specific about ads not being disparaging to people with darker skin," ASIC's chairman Partha Rakshit told the WSJ. Both Procter & Gamble and Unilever both said they would comply with the new rules, though it's hard to tell how they're going to advertise a skin lightening cream without emphasizing the whole point of skin lightening. They'll probably just let decades of negative messaging about dark skin do the work for them.