Ethics in Advertising

Armeen Qayoom 100110

Some quotes to start us off:

“…Advertising is the „lubricant of the free-enterprise system…” (Kelmenson in McKenna, 1983, p11)

“…Advertising is essential to the look and feel of modern societies…In their images and phrases, these advertisements give public form to changing social desires, moods and ideals: they are the official art or modern capitalist society…” (Williams, in Sinclair, 1997, p267)
“…Salesmanship, advertising, the telephone…are all really just ways of mediating human interaction…these and most other media…have turned into avenues of behaviour and thought control…The art of manipulation has become…prevalent…We are living through end-stage propaganda, a culture which has been subjected to so much…programming – that it exhibits pathological symptoms…” (Rushkoff, 1999, pp25-26) “…Advertising is legalised lying…” (Wells in Jackman, 1982, p2)

and that preference is commercial) as a first principal all these texts in circulation in a ‘free society’ should be subject to the ethical scrutiny of its citizens .Some ad text groundwork: I’d like us all to recognise that:    ads are texts just like novels or films (but texts that have ‘promotional intent’) ads are public texts that circulate freely (but they have preferred readings.

They call it ‘boundary blurring’ and it has to do with our increasing inability to distinguish between ads and non ads in media content Macro. completely ‘colonised’. So we might consider:    ‘Micro range’.Some ad text groundwork: I’d like us to also consider the ethics of advertising in three ‘ranges’. at both an individual and a collective level by promotional rhetoric . Here we enter the area that Elspeth Probyn and Catherine Lumby cover in this week’s reading. This final area deals with the biggest issues. the notion of a mental landscape. our imagination effectively. This deals with the everyday issues of ‘problematic’ advertisements that interact with the broad sweep of changing individual moral norms Mid range.

Some ethical framework revision  1) ‘Teleological’ philosophies determine the moral worth of a behaviour by its consequences or end point. not necessarily the outcome. Two common teleological theories are egoism. and utilitarianism. where it is the actor that is important. in which individuals focus only on the consequences to themselves when evaluating an ethical situation. These virtues should be used ‘in balance’ between extremes of possible conduct (This is the ‘golden mean’)  . In virtue ethics a ‘good person’ has personal qualities such as courage. wisdom. where the consequences of an ethical situation to the whole of society are more important than the consequences to an individual (the good of the many outweighs the good of the one) 2) Aretaic or ‘virtue’ philosophies. loyalty and fairness.

but on the idea that some things are ‘universally right or wrong’ and that these ‘laws’ should compel us to do the right thing because it becomes our ‘duty’ to do so. Kant is at the extreme end of Duty ethics. Ross’ ‘pluralistic theory of value’ is less so because it allows multiple duties 4) ‘Relativist’ philosophies would have us believe that no universal ethical rules can exist that apply to everyone in every situation because all beliefs are culturally generated .not timeless and ‘handed to us from above’  . Duty ethics posit an ethics not based on ‘fuzzy’ ideas of individual virtue.Some ethical framework revision  3) ‘Deontological’ philosophies on the other hand emphasises the act.

either by utilising the ‘pester power’ effect to control purchases through their parents. more specifically that it reduces women (and increasingly men) to sex objects That it uses ‘shock’ (cruelty. i.e.e.Some of the most persistent ‘micro’ & ‘midrange’ criticisms of advertising ethics include:  That it takes advantage of ‘innocent’ and ‘defenceless’ children . or by marketing goods and services to children considered by many to be to young to either understand the ‘persuasive intent’ of the ad or too young to actually need the good or service (i. the selling of cosmetics or high end lingerie to young girls)  That it uses sex to sell. disgust. it trivialises very serious aspects of the human condition  . pornography etc etc) to sell = Benetton. violence.

in its depiction of racial/ethnic/religious/gender and age stereotypes. rather than proactive. many Aboriginal faces or aged people are there in Australian advertising?   . For instance . and the idea that the solution to these ‘problems’ can be found in the marketplace That it sells and glamorises harmful (but legal) substances like alcohol.Some of the most persistent ‘micro’ & ‘midrange’ criticisms of advertising include:  That it promotes unhealthy and unrealistic body image expectations in young women and young men. and certain ‘lifestyle’ drugs .and encourages/normalises unhealthy eating habits That it is reactive.

e. particularly in the age of the internet and the mobile phone. Advertorials. infomercials. the ‘right’ to medical treatment gets replaced by luxury private health cover)  That.Some of the most persistent ‘micro’ & ‘midrange’ criticisms of advertising include:  That it commodifies aspects of life that should be part of a person’s basic human rights (i. product placement). it invades people’s privacy by collecting data about them without their knowledge or express consent That in the age of convergence. cash for comment). or entertainment (magalogs.e. advertisers are increasingly ‘hiding’ their persuasive message behind a mask of ‘journalism’ or celebrity (i. or just mediums that are considered to be part of the realm of everyday speech (blog-ads)  .

luxury and desire that poor people can see but never attain   . hopes. fears in their place (‘be what you want to be’) That it ‘dumbs down’ civil discourse by transforming complex issues (like politics and the environmental crisis) into celebrity contests and ‘greenwash’ respectively That it sets up a regime of success. that it less and less serves to inform us believably about logical ‘basic product information’ such as price. and inserts emotionality .Some of the most persistent criticisms of the ad industry as a whole include:  That it is ‘designed’ to be deceptive.dreams. and moreover. place and performance (is ‘fat’ free really fat free?).

Some of the most persistent criticisms of the ad industry as a whole include:  That it is not subject to enough government regulation and that the industry’s attempt to ‘self regulate’ is a selfcontradictory joke That it disguises human suffering and inequality behind its ‘brilliant disguise’ (i.e. to ‘discipline the parent’ into feeling that they alone are responsible for supervising their child’s ‘ad exposure’ and that if they fail to do that they are bad parents)   . exploitation of coffee workers) That the political/economic thrust of the industry is to dismantle public limits to unregulated promotionality (by lobbying to weaken legislative restrictions on ads) and replace them with individual/ familial ‘self regulation’ (i.e.

Davis (1994.use of hyperbole or unbelievable exaggeration Use of generalisations about products where specific details are required.At a simple level of ‘deception’. p381) lists four types of practises that all promotional texts could be accused of to some extent:   ‘Puffery’ . or ads that don’t include crucial information   And I will add another. overriding ethical objection:  Advertising too often doesn’t ‘respect’ people as fully developed individuals and citizens with goals beyond the immediate purchase . leading to false expectations about utility Use of qualifiers and vague quantifiers Use of small or fleeting fine print.

of micro-targeted SMS campaigns.advertising industry workers are customers too! Dilemmas faced by advertising professionals potentially impact on their own children! . and where individuals can increasingly ‘advertise themselves’ online via blogs What is persuasion. and how do we hold people to it??? Remember . what is deception. what is truth. of multiple product placements in reality TV shows that are themselves ads for the contestants.One final observation:  In a digital. interactive world of:     ‘viral’ messages spread ‘voluntarily’ by users.

Example case study issues .

Example case study issues .

Example case study issues .

au/mediawatch/watch/default.h tm?program=mediawatch&pres=20081013_2120& story=4 .And now for something completely different:

com/watch?v=EhVNZt1aOc8 ‘Mid-macro’ case study 2 .youtube.Shock and fear in advertising ‘Micro’ case study 2 .Greenwash ‘Mid-macro’ case study 1 ‘Micro’ case study 3 .‘Boundary blurring’ .Advertising to children http://www.‘Micro’ case study 1 .can advertising disguise exploitation? http://www.

sell and are funded by them? Patterson and Wilkins mention Baker and Martinson’s ‘TARES’ test.A Micro-mid ‘Conclusion’:  How do we proceed from here at the practical level of individual ad texts and the industries that create. which has become an influential tool in the study of advertising ethics In the tutes it would be useful to look at this test and evaluate its usefulness. perhaps test it against some ‘real world ads’. and consider whether adherence to this test is a realistic expectation in the harsh light of coalface industry  .

p180) . other shades of feeling and other ways of being in the world…” (p148) “…so conditioned are we to expect advertising and almost no other form of address in our public spaces that we naturally assume that a printed.…And a ‘Macro’ Question:  At the macro level the question is whether marketers should have access to every corner of the media and every corner of our creative brain space .is the world really. mass produced image must be there to sell us something…” (Poyner. R. now just “…made of marketing…”?  There is “…an increasingly desperate need to preserve a space for other forms of thinking. as Douglas Rushkoff has stated.

Conclusions?  Are there absolute standards of right and wrong that individuals. accountability and ‘excellence of character’ come into this?    . responsibility. advertising industry professionals and societies should adhere to? Does the ‘pleasure’ produced by adverts outweigh the damage they cause? Or is it all a relativist ‘free for all’ where the ‘viewer/buyer’ beware holds true Where do ‘virtue ethics’ notions like obligation.

Conclusions?  Are there ‘special interest groups’ of especially vulnerable people out there that deserve ethical (and legal) protection form this marketing ‘free for all’? If so. who are they and why?  .

which I have put up on the CI&E website) work? Can we trust for profit organisations that answer to shareholders first to behave responsibly?   What kind of legislation would you pass to legally oversee ad standards. or would you take a hands off approach and let the industry ‘self regulate’? .Conclusions?  Does self regulation by advertising peak bodies (as seen in the AFA and AANA Codes of Ethics.

interactive.seated with the actor. restricted or banned? What was the ad?  . or is it just all relative? Is ‘any publicity good publicity’? Have YOU ever been shocked or disgusted or saddened by an ad enough to want it changed. „boundary blurring‟ world where it is increasingly hard to tell what is and isn‟t an ad .Conclusions?  Is the ethical crux of a potentially controversial admaking decision today especially in a digital. the ‘rules’. the outcome. the act.

are truth and freedom… …There is a very real danger that advertisers and public relations practitioners will play an increasingly dysfunctional role in the communications process if means continue to be confused with ends in professional persuasive communications. Among the moral final ends of journalism. 2001) . morally based final (or relative last) end. ethical persuasion must rest on or serve a deeper. …” (Baker & Martinson.Why ‘TARES’?  “…Whereas professional persuasion is a means to an immediate and instrumental end (such as increased sales or enhanced corporate image). for example.

Certain groups might be unfairly stereotyped by this communication .   EQUITY (of the appeal) 1. People receiving the information will benefit from it 3. That the communicator would personally advocate the view he/she is presenting 2.   SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (for the common good) 1. Self-interest is being promoted at the expense of those being persuaded. That the communicator would openly assume personal responsibility for the communication. The view being advocated might cause harm to individuals or society 2. The target audience can completely understand the information being presented to them. The context of the communication is fair 3. Whether the communicator’s own honesty and integrity may be questioned as a result of this communication decision 3. That the target audience is viewed by the communicator with respect 2.   RESPECT (for the persuadee) 1. That the content of the communication promoted the principles the communicator personally believes in 3.   AUTHENTICITY (of the persuader) 1. Whether the target audience was unfairly selected due to their vulnerability to the content 2.Ethical Questions Derived from the 5 point TARES test (adapted from Lieber 2003)   TRUTHFULNESS (of the message) 1. The accuracy of the content 2. Whether the communicator would feel deceived if this communication was related to him/her in the same context.


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