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Advertising Ethics

Advertising Ethics

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Published by Jayaram Vijaykumar

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Published by: Jayaram Vijaykumar on Aug 23, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Human beings are world creators. One of the worlds that human beingshave created is the world of money, commodities, trade; exchange aworld full of beauty and ugliness in equal proportions, messy, flashy,exotic, scary. No-one who has made their home in this world would seethis the way an outsider can see. The world of business -the world of buyers and sellers, bosses and workers, producers and consumers, theworld of money is nothing less than an ontological category, a way of Being. It is not accidental to who we are. It defines the way we relate toeach other and to the world around us. But it is not the only way of being. There are other ways, and the most fundamental of these is ethics.Ethics, as understood here, is defined by the
When I engage another person in moral dialogue, there are nottwo parallel processes of practical deliberation going on, his andmine, but only one. (Contrast this with the case of a 'dialogue'between politicians or traders, where each is privatelydeliberating how to gain the upper hand.) In opening myself upand addressing the other as a thou- I am already committed tothe practical consequences of agreement, of doing the actionwhich, by the combined light of his valuation perspective andmine is seen as the thing to be done.ADVERTISINGAdvertising
is a form of communication intended to persuade anaudience (viewers, readers or listeners) to take some action. It includesthe name of a product or service and how that product or service couldbenefit the consumer, to persuade potential customers to purchase or toconsume that particular brand. Modern advertising developed with therise of mass production in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.Commercial advertisers often seek to generate increased consumption of their products or services through branding, which involves the repetitionof an image or product name in an effort to associate related qualitieswith the brand in the minds of consumers. Different types of media can beused to deliver these messages, including traditional media such asnewspapers, magazines, television, radio, outdoor or direct mail; or newmedia such as websites and text messages. Advertising may be placed byan advertising agency on behalf of a company or other organization.Non-commercial advertisers that spend money to advertise items otherthan a consumer product or service include political parties, interestgroups, religious organizations and governmental agencies. Non-profitorganizations may rely on free modes of persuasion, such as a publicservice announcement.
In 2007, spending on advertising was estimated at more than $150 billionin the United States and $385 billion worldwide. The importance of advertising is "steadily on the increase in modern society. Just as themedia of social communication themselves have enormous influenceeverywhere, so advertising, using media as its vehicle, is a pervasive,powerful force shaping attitudes and behaviour in today's world.
But how fair is the business game, really? On the face of it, producers andconsumers have a very different view. The marketplace is not a levelplaying field, and the chief culprit is advertising.Here are three charges levelled against advertisers:
1. They sell us dreams, entice us into confusingdreams with reality.2. They pander to our desires for things that are badfor us.3. They manipulate us into wanting things we don'treally need.
It was in July 23, 1995, that a Mumbai tabloid published a photograph of an ad for Tuff Shoes that had models Madhu Sapre and Milind Soman posing in the nudewith a pythonwrapped around them, just about covering the vitals. The controversy andprotestsdragged on for a long time. The ad agencies defended their creative rightswhile the nationPooh-poohed the couple's audacity.
Even as a section of the media andpublic lambasted the advertisers and the agencies for the falling scores of taste and decency in advertising, such ads raged on and became an orderof the day.Recently the AXE chocolate sprays ads were the latest addition to this list.
 Thus advertisers and admen are increasingly under fire for upsetting thesocio-cultural-religious sensitivities and sensibilities of consumers. And, unfortunately,things arelooking only worse day by day. With slashing down of the ad budget andwith theBusiness slumping, everyone is even more desperate to stand out in ahurry. To boostshort-term sales or to win ad awards. Their slogan is 'Love it. Or hate it. Orthink it isoffensive. But you have to notice it. Advertising is criticized because
selling carries a stigma.Centuries ago, Anacharis, had said, "the market is the place set asidewhere men may deceive each other'. Even to this date despite the rise inconsumerism and efforts to counter market deception, buyers are stillgullible and are not particularly on guard against deception. To create animpact, the advertisers pit creative message-makers against blasésophisticates, hardened by thousands of commercials. The objective is tocut through the clutter, to grip ones attention and to create an impressionthat lingers on in the memory of the prospective buyers. And, while doingso, they create desires, shape attitudes, mould temperaments, alter socialvalues and raise many an ethical question. To which there is no easyanswer. The measure of advertising's success is the extent to which itincreases demand. Competition or declining profits can blow goodintention out of the boardroom. Under such circumstances, theperspective shifts from what is best in the long run for the society to whatis best in the short-run for the company. Ethics, the advertisers say, is finefor the secure, but a greater market share is all the slipping companyneeds!
1. Value formationAdvertisements responsible for moulding society, material wants. The adsdisplayingscantily clad female models commoditize women. And the deluge of adsthat increaseones propensity of consumption makes one feel that possessing a certaincommodity isessential to show that one belongs to the higher echelon of the society.2. Media contentInformation content of ads; the ads that suggest the use of preserved fooditems without aslightest mention of the fact that many of these preservatives have beenproved to havecarcinogenic effect.3. Use of deception The ads of brands that conceal their negative aspects. The ads of cosmetics that saynothing about the long-term effects of regular usage of their products; theads of theeducational institution that wrongly claim to give 100 percent placementto its students

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