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Annika Lindburg


MSCM 335

Case study 1


Randall recently finished graduate school with an M.A. in advertising and works

at a major agency in account services. His job requires him to work as an assistant

account executive for a client that is introducing a new sports car. His responsibility

would be to drive the new sports car for six months while selling the car and hand out

supplementary materials to whomever was interested in the car. Randall would not be

able to tell the individuals that the car was not his and this promotion seemed deceptive to


Virtue Ethics

In order to best analyze this case; I will use virtue ethics to help decide what

Randall should say and to whom. Randall is clearly smart and educated, yet when

presented with a promising job, Randall has difficulty figuring out what to do. It makes

sense, as the question of ethics becomes blurred in this situation. Attributes of virtues for

advertisers are truthful, loyalty, and tactfulness (Bivins, 79). Randall has an M.A. in

Advertising, so if he were to follow the virtue traits of truthfulness, he would talk to the

account team and let them know how he is uncomfortable with the situation. If Randall

practices virtue ethics habitually, the traits of good character can make him a good person

(Bivins, 79). Randalls hesitation towards the promotion shows that he has traits of a

good character but needs more guidance on ethical decision-making. Using virtue ethics,

potters box, Grunigs linkages, and Ross prima facie duties should help Randall see that

he should talk to his employer by informing him that this promotion is unethical and

makes him feel uncomfortable.

Potter Box

In order to decide if Randall should say anything, and to whom, it is important to

utilize Potter box to aid Randalls decision making. Potter box has four components:

facts, values, principles, and loyalties. Randall is posed with a dilemma of whether to do

something ethically right, i.e. declining the promotion due to wanting to be a good

person, or ethically wrong, which means staying with the company. It is important to

distinguish the values of the stakeholders involved, in order to help Randall make an

informed decision. The stakeholders involved are the company, Randalls team, and the

major automobile client. One could speculate that Randall wants to please his team

members and boss by deciding to sell the cars. The car company has professional values

in which they are more concerned with making money than the ethics of their actions

which in turn contribute to questioning their virtues. The potential buyers of the cars can

also be affected by the values of the company and Randalls team. If they chose to lie, the

buyers are misled into buying a product that can affect the relationship between the

consumer and the company. The next step in Potter box is ethical principle. The ethical

principle that is applicable to this situation is Aristotles Golden Mean which states that

moral behavior is the mean between two extremes- one of excess and the other deficiency

(Bivins, 78). This can be adapted to the virtue of truthfulness, but if used excessively it

would become two polarizing extremes. This resonates with Randall, who has to interpret

the rights and wrongs of this buzz marketing tactic.


Before jumping to conclusions, it is important to look at the final section in Potter

box which is of loyalties. Randall has loyalties towards his coworkers, himself, and his

boss. He should put the loyalties of himself and his coworkers before his boss because

that shows good character, which are the fundamentals of virtue ethics.

Grunigs linkages

Another way we can examine if Randall should speak to his boss is by identifying

the stakeholders and their relationship towards the case, according to Grunigs linkages.

The stakeholders involved in this case are the people who might buy the car, the

company, and Randalls coworkers. According to Grunigs linkages, the people who

might buy the car would be applicable to that of a receiver, ones who use the

organizations service i.e. the car that Randalls company is selling (Bivins, 22). The

receivers would be most affected by the decision of Randall to say or not say anything.

The company, while a stakeholder, will not be too affected by Randalls decision to leave

the company because they can simply find someone new to promote the car. Because of

this, they closely resemble issue-defined constituents since the company will have a

problem if Randall leaves, but can quickly resolve it by hiring someone else. Randalls

coworkers resemble the suppliers. This duty resembles self-improvement and promise

keeping. Randalls decisions will affect his coworkers and he could learn a lot by working

at such an established agency.

Ross Prima Facie Duties

The final section to consider is Rosss Prima Facie Duties, which are duties all

humans would recognize as morally binding (Bivins, 26). The first prima facie duty is

fidelity, and one of the subsets it lists is, one should not lie in any aspect of their lives.

This binding duty is something that Randall should consider when deciding if he should

say anything. The ethical obligations that Randall has to the buyers of said car, his team

and company are all different. His ethical obligation to himself is to live a truthful life

which can lead to a good character. Furthermore, the ethical obligation Randall has to the

consumers is also do not lie. Ross considers it a duty of fidelity to not lie and lying to

unsuspecting individuals could result in them trusting you and possibly buying the

product (Bivins, 26). One of the ethical obligations to the stakeholders based on Rosss

prima facie duties is the duty of justice. Ross states that if someone receives a gift that

brings him or her happiness, it is up to them to provide or prevent the distribution,

regardless of their position or power (Bivins, 26). This is applicable to Randall, as he has

an ethical obligation to speak up or ignore his gut feeling. Randall accepted the position,

which means he has an ethical obligation to his company unless he quits. The ethical

obligation of the automobile company would be a duty of beneficence. The duty of

beneficence is applicable to the company because they are introducing a new car to

individuals and selling the car to them. This duty can make a person feel better, and

inflate their ego, which is the opposite of virtue ethics. Another ethical duty that is

applicable is gratitude; the car company is lending Randall a cool sports car and he is

getting paid to ride and sell it. Since Randall is receiving the car as a gift, then he would

be obligated to that company (Bivins, 26). If Randall were to keep his job, he would be

tied to the company, but if he chose not to participate in an unethical act, then he would

have no obligation toward the company.


By examining Virtue Ethics, Potter Box, Grunigs linkage, and Ross Prima Facie

Duties, it is clear that more harm than good comes from Randall not saying anything.

Randall should say something to one of his employers: It is not ethically right to omit the

truth in order to sell something. While it would be unfortunate to lose his job, Rachels

states that virtues are important because the virtuous will fare better in life. Therefor,

Randall should not accept the promotion, and if need be, find another job.

Looking at how these issues effect the stakeholders involved also show that more harm

than good comes from it. Therefore, he should say how unethical this promotion is, and

talk to the account team. By doing so, Randall can also possibly help them see the

unethicality of this buzz marketing technique. Even better yet, if Randall chose to

publicly speak about this issue, this could lead to a loss of costumers which could be

detrimental to the company. The car company might have to change their ways of finding

an ethically correct tactic for selling cars. This would make the CEO of the company

somewhat of a virtuous person, which in turn, can lead to becoming a good character.

Works Cited

Bivins, Thomas. Mixed Media: Moral Distinctions in Advertising, Public Relations, and

Journalism. New York: Routledge, 2009. Print.

Rachels, James. The Elements of Moral Philosophy. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010.