Advertisement Ethics

The modern society is galvanized with the increasing use of technology in communication. Particularly, advertising is steadily on the rise as businesses strive to m-ake customers purchase their products. Advertising uses the social media as its vehicle and is a pervasive, powerful force that is used to shape the attitudes and behaviors of the current market. Different scholars have come forth to define what ethics mean, however, they all end up giving the same proposition that ethics encompasses a set of moral principles that govern individual’s behavior on how certain activities are conducted. In advertising, ethics denotes a set of well-governed and defined principles that inscribe the ways of communication that takes place between the seller and the buyer. Ethics in the advertisement industry is termed as the most important feature. Although advertisement brings enormous benefits to both the customers and the advertising company, there are some aspects that do not conform to the ethical norms of advertisement.

The advertising industry operates under strict laws instituted by the federal government and regulations, which are constantly monitored by the Federal Trade Commission to be ethical. The Institute for Advertising Ethics (IAE) also has come up with principles that govern the use of advertisements in the market. However, in spite of all these regulations and policies, the industry still experiences numerous ethical issues that hamper the relationship between the company and the customers in the market. Thus, this paper discusses some of the ethical issues that galvanize the advertising industry and establishes the effects they have on the customers. The research also takes a deeper approach in analyzing the ethical implications of the advertising industry by analyzing other researches that have been conducted.


The modern advertising platform is characterized with numerous promotional experts in position to offer their services to businesses. However, most of these experts tend to over exaggerate the ads or print advertisements they release to the market. An ethical advertisement is that which observes the essence of reliability to the end consumer. For instance, if a product contained only vitamins D and the advertisement adds another component such as vitamin C in their advertisement, the advertisement would lead to a false claim, which is an unethical approach to convincing the customers. To attain a trustworthy reputation and reliability it is paramount to inculcate some fundamental practices in the marketing industry.

Primarily, the marketing industry should prioritize the quality of output. In a bid to please consumers in the market, advertisers would often find themselves in a situation where they give unqualified information to customers. As a result, if customers purchase that product, they get a completely different composition to what had been advertised. An advertisement on Activia Yogurt raised people’s eye brows when it was realized that the product was just like any other in the market. In the advertisement Dannon exaggerated the product’s composition and even hiked its price, yet in the long run customers found out it was not really the truth. Thus, to attain an ethical position it is crucial for advertisers to set expectations that they must accomplish effectively. By doing so, they will ensure a promising reputation of their products on the market.

Choosing the words to use also plays a key role in ensuring advertisement reliability. Every word counts in advertisements. Take a case of Taco Bell’s seasoned beef. The customers in this case asked questions on what actually the seasoned beef was, however, the company was not in a position to defend its advertisement due to poor choice of words because it apparently used oat filler, meaning that it was not seasoned beef. Reliability is a key virtue in ensuring that customers would always trust company’s advertisements and purchase its products. The institute of advertising ethics describes that all advertisements ought to be truthful, honest and straight to the point. It means that without proper alignment to the real value and component of a product, an advertisement will be termed as unethical.


Privacy Issues

Privacy has been a major concern in the world, especially when it comes to the use of the Internet. Governments across the world have contemplated on this matter, depicting how the Internet is supposed to be used to ensure that privacy is taken into consideration. For instance, the EU privacy policies argue that such information ought not to be used without customer consent. However, regardless of the policies instituted by some of the countries in the globe the approach of integrated marketing is widely used. Most companies use cookies to monitor customer purchasing behaviors and then utilize the trends exhibited by the customers to come up with advertisements. There is cookie invasion is all over the Internet as each company competes to get a cake of the market proportion. Though some companies argue that this approach is beneficial to the customers, it remains a security breach since most of the websites never ask permissions from the customers. Most importantly, no privacy statement is issued in this regard that the information is used for targeted marketing.

There are a number of security implications associated with the use of cookies. Some websites use this technology to provide access control scheme. A website that has login functionality may set cookies into the browser with the login credentials or sometimes the session details. Such trends bring security related problems whenever a computer is shared by many people.

There is a tremendous growth exhibited in the e-commerce platform and the growth is expected to become larger in the future. Thus, there is a need for consumers to culminate a sense of security and privacy. It is the right of users to know how their information is collected and used. The current toll in the use of cookies tells why the consumers in the market have to remain conscious on the unethical approaches adopted by companies. Companies use numerous methods to gather and combine information. In the end, they profile the users in terms of behaviors targeting. Some of the reported issues that concern advertisements and privacy include the case of Katz vs US 2000. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that there was a need to have a reasonable assumption of a privacy test and every Internet user ought to have privacy.

Websites and companies that use the online marketing strategy through cookies need to inculcate transparent policies and adopt clear options to people on how their information is stored and used. The approach will increase the informed choice of the Internet users and the consumers in general. Being open is one of the ethical stipulations and principles ingrained in the advertisement institute of ethics. It is a common practice to see numerous pops whenever you log into your account on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The main reason why this happens is that other third party providers have observed your behaviors on the Internet and would often offer suggestions on what they think you would want to access. The problem with this approach is that some of the pops do not easily go away and tend to annoy the users. While such advertisements also remain on the premise of ethics, the advertisers must give users a quit option whenever they feel like they do not want to view the ads.

Enhance the Standard of Advertising

Corporations spend a better portion of their total communications budget on advertisements. However, a small problem or error in that advertisement may lead to a decline in the reputation of a company. For instance, in 2000 Emulex released a phony press that announced a reduction of its total earnings estimates due to the accounting problems and dismissal of the company’s CEO. This announcement, however, was not effectively received by the investors who avoided the company. In the long run, the company’s shares nose-dived immensely. The influence of news relative to the influence of advertisement remains unexploited fully.

In most industries, it is the media that covers their products and services to their readers or users. However, the major source of revenue for the media is the advertisements they continually carry out. Most often media stations break their programs to advertise products or services requested by the clients. The problem arises from the fact that some of the advertisements carried out during the breaks are unethical. For instance, the advertisement of Caribú Chocolate, which is produced by a little known Peruvian chocolate company, reads “the dark side of sweetness”. The advertisement needs to depict the message that their chocolate brand is very dark. However, in the advertisement the company shows a girl who performs a dark action of placing a baby chick through a meat grinder. The impression portrayed by this advertisement does not go well with most of the viewers. The advertisement could be termed as offensive to a given segment of people who may no longer be interested in watching any programs on that channel.

The advertisement can be termed as offensive to the animal rights campaigners as it depicts the abuse of animals. It is also offensive to parents as it may illustrate bad parenting in the sense that the girl in the advertisement was never taught or brought up with the principles of animal treatment. At the same time, children could be disgusted at the fact that a human being could put a baby chick through a meat grinder. Essentially, the quality of the news could greatly be impaired if the media decides to air such advertisements to the public. It is because people would like to watch what is relevant and life building. In addition, there is a segment of viewers who may want entertaining shows, yet these entertainments ought to be skewed towards inculcating useful teachings to the general public. 

The cheerios advertisement also brought about controversies as most people cited racism in the advertisement. In the advertisement, there was a family that encompassed a black father and a white mother. On the mother’s advice, the daughter thought the cheerios would turn her father from being black to match with the rest of the family and poured the cheerios on him. The impression ingrained in such an advertisement is the fact that there are some races in the society that are looked down upon. While the advertisement could lead to humor and rhetoric conviction, it fails to be qualified as a substantive approach of communicating positively. Thus, it is unethical for media platforms to air such advertisements as it would lower their credibility in the market. It is high time for the media channels to assume the role of ensuring that reliable, truthful and direct to the point advertisements are correlated to the customers in the market in order to take into consideration the ethical perspectives of advertisements.

Harm Reduction

Ethical advertisements would not send negative signals to the society as opposed to unethical advertisements. There is a need for businesses to ensure streamlining their advertisements to take into consideration the fact that the society is embedded on numerous principles the violation of which would lead to a general imbalance. Take a case of the advertisement carried out by Ford Figo. The most controversial advertisement carried out by the company is the one, which was meant to allude to the Indian hatchback’s spacious trunk. It showed former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy (termed as a frequent criminal defendant) flashing a victory sign while driving, and his occupants were three scantily dressed women caged in the rear. The company is well-known for its large luggage capacity. Soon after the advertisements were posted, they spread rapidly through the Internet and attracted sharp reactions from different people who felt that the content was harmful to a specific community.

Most of the viewers depicted that the advertisement showed that Ford was at the fore fronts in condoning women kidnapping. Thus, there is a need for advertisers to ensure that at all times they release content that does not bring about controversies to the society. For instance, Coca Cola Company can stand as one of the champions of harmony, peace and co-existence in the society through its share a coke ads and advertisements. It is the picture portraying Mountain Dew that allowed its customers to design their products in a competition. It is such messages that companies ought to express while society views in the advertisement should be a contributory factor to customer comfort ability rather than demotivation.


Finally, advertisement is a very important tool in marketing, if effectively employed. At all times marketers should endeavor to align advertisements to organizational mission and vision. Depending on their applicability, advertisements also can paint either a positive image to the company or a negative image. Thus, there is a need for businesses to observe the ethical principles that govern advertisements.

Oct 23, 2019 in Socioligy
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