Ron Smith's Teaching Notes on ...

 

Ethical Issues in Advertising

 

 

 

Updated Spring 2016 as a supplement to Professor Smith's textbooks
Strategic Planning for Public Relations and Becoming a Public Relations Writer, (Routledge/Taylor and Francis).

 

Advertising and promotion offer many opportunities to an organization's public relations and integrated strategic communication program. Advertising is by its nature an element of persuasion. Because itss history includes many examples of questionable practices, it is particularly important today that practitioners of public relations and marketing communication carefully consider ethical aspects.

 

Advertising Ethics

Ethical Criteria

Advocacy

Accuracy

Acquisitiveness / Conspicuous Consumption

 

 

Ethical Questions

Who should/shouldn't be the target of advertising?

Who should/shouldn't be exposed to advertising, whether targetted or not?

What products, services, or ideas should/shouldn't be advertised?

What should/shouldn't be relationship between advertising content and medium?

What should/shouldn't be advertisers' obligation to society?

 

 

7 Ethical Challenges for Advertising Practitioners

  1. Treating clients fairly

  2. Treating advertising audiences fairly

  3. Creating honest, nonmisleading, socially desirable ads

  4. Representing healthy, useful, and ethical products, services, and/or ideas

  5. Treating supplier, vendors, and media fairly

  6. Treating employees and management of agency fairly

  7. Treating other agencies fairly

 

 

Ethical Issues in Advertising

  • Puffery & Hype: Exaggerated by legal claims (Hallmark cards: “When you want to send the very best.” Everready Batteries: “Nothing outlasts an Eveready battery”

  • Good Taste: Stereotyping (gender, race, ethnicity, age, lifestyle, handicaps, religion)

  • Stealth Advertising: Promotional messages embedded in a story line but not explicitely presented as advertising

  • Advertising to Children: Controversial products (alcohol, tobacco, gambling)

  • Gratuitous Sexual Content: Using nudity, sexual imagery, and sex appeal, both explicitely and by innuendo, for the purpose of attracting attention, despite little or no inherent seual aspects of the product/service/idea being advertised

  • Negative Content: Fear appeals, guilt appeals, threats, hate speech

 

 

Ethical Standards

Here are some codes from various organizations and nations. Note the connection between these codes and social values, polical openness, transparancy, and various approaches to democracy and capitalism.

American Advertising Federation

American Marketing Association

Advertising Standards Canada

Australian Association of National Advertisers

Committee of Advertising Practice (United Kingsom)

Advertising Educational Foundation

Japan Advertising Agencies Association

Advertising Standards Council of India

Code of Advertising Practice (Malaysia)

United Arab Emirates

Ad Standards Council (Philippines)

Ethics in Advertising (Vatican)

German Advertising Standards Council

Advertising Standards Authority foir Ireland

 

 

Ethical Questions for Discussion

1. Discuss the ethical implications of two potential advertisements: (1) A TV advertisement for a political candidate includes images of the Twin Towers collapsing, with a get-tough-on-terrorism message from a candidate for governor. (2) A magazine ad that shows two tall classes of a soft drink, positioned somewhat like the Twin Towers, with the message "Collapse into summer."

  • What practical considerations apply?

  • What do ethical codes advise?

  • What is your ethical judgment about this?

  • What would you do, and how would you explain or justify your decision?

 

2. You are asked to develop an ad campaign for a new cigarette. The advertiser wants you to build the campaign around high-profile entertainers, specifically those who frequently appear on TV programs and videos aimed at teen audiences.

  • What practical considerations apply?

  • What do ethical codes advise?

  • What is your ethical judgment about this?

  • What would you do, and how would you explain or justify your decision? 

 

3. A local church asks you to develop an advertising campaign to promote its conservative views on fidelity in marriage, chastity before marriage, the dominant role of the father/husband in family life, and opposing homosexuality and same-sex marriage/civil unions.

  • What practical considerations apply?

  • What do ethical codes advise?

  • What is your ethical judgment about this?

  • What would you do, and how would you explain or justify your decision? 

 

4. Another local church asks you to develop an advertising campaign to promote its liberal agenda including opposition to the death penalty, support for divorced/remarriage persons, expansion of social services to the poor, and respect for LGBT persons.

  • What practical considerations apply?

  • What do ethical codes advise?

  • What is your ethical judgment about this?

  • What would you do, and how would you explain or justify your decision?

 

5. A local group asks you to develop an advertising campaign to generate public support for a gambling casino. You are aware of a new study by the Sociology Department at your university that links the introduction of gambling in an area with increases in crimes such as prostitution and burglary, and social problems such as increase in divorce, child neglect, and addictions.

  • What practical considerations apply?

  • What do ethical codes advise?

  • What is your ethical judgment about this?

  • What would you do, and how would you explain or justify your decision? 

 

6. You have been asked to develop an advertising campaign for a development company planning an exclusive gated community that, you are told off the record, will accept a few carefully vetted minority residents.

  • What practical considerations apply?

  • What do ethical codes advise?

  • What is your ethical judgment about this?

  • What would you do, and how would you explain or justify your decision?