Ethics and advertising

The paper focuses on the relationship between ethics and advertising. ... in an ethical discussion about advertising: advocacy, accuracy and acquisitiveness.
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ETHICS AND ADVERTISING Adrian Brunello Faculty of Economics and Business Administration Iaşi/ România [email protected] Abstract The paper focuses on the relationship between ethics and advertising. Advertising, as an element of the promotional mix, stirs many controversial opinions. Both specialists and consumers have different view points when it comes to considering advertising good or evil, ethical or unethical. The paper discusses these contradictory view points and analyzes the three central aspects that appear in an ethical discussion about advertising: advocacy, accuracy and acquisitiveness. The work also contains the “allegations” that are brought to advertising, which make it seem unethical. Every allegation is supported by examples of campaigns which were banned or forbidden from being broadcast on TV. In the end, it is spoken about the regulations regarding advertising at an international, European and local level.

Keywords Advertising, ethics, “allegations” faced by advertising, regulations

1. Introduction Promotion is the element of the marketing mix which offers consumers a first impression about the company or about the product. Promotion can be seen as an assembly of actions meant to inform, attract and keep the potential clients. It also stimulates the purchase decision threw creating the belief that the offer can satisfy the clients needs at the highest level [1]. We can say that promotion represents a continuous process of communication between the company and its target market [2]. In this process, the message is sent by the emitter who codifies it to a receiver who decodes it [3]. Usually, the source of the impersonal communication is the company who develops and delivers the right message. The receiver is the audience who the company tries to inform, influence and persuade. The emitter must formulate a message adapted to the purpose, using words, illustrations and symbols. In order to send the message, the emitter uses a channel paid or unpaid, personal or impersonal [4]. For example, the massage can be sent using TV commercials, magazines, outdoor posters, shopping visits and web sites. The purpose of the message is to generate attention and interest and finally to encourage buying. The way people interpret the message depends largely on the personal experience and on the characteristics of the receiver. These imply demographic characteristics, socio-cultural, personality, attitude, previous experiences, perceptions and last but not least the ethics of receiver. The emitter has his own ethical principles which influence the way in which the message is being coded. If the message is received in the desired manner by the emitter, we will have a proper feed-back from the receiver, which is the answer of the audience. For example, the receivers may or may not buy the promoted product, which means that the emitters can figure out how persuasive the massage was from the actions or the lack of

actions of the target market. Therefore, a massage which is perceived as unethical will trigger a negative feedback from the audience.

2. Opinions pro and against advertising Wells defines advertising as a “means of paid and impersonal communication of an identified sponsor who uses mass media to persuade and influence the audience”. Other authors describe advertising as an important social phenomenon which stimulates the consumption and the economic activity, influencing the life style and the values of the consumers who are exposed daily to considerable amounts of advertising in various media. The opinions about advertising vary from admiration and amusement to cynicism and blame. „Advertising is not an art; it is made only for selling. Those who believe that advertising is made without any interest should no longer be in this field. It is true that, at least where form is concerned, advertising uses artistic means. But, as it is not a form of art, advertising must respect the rules of the commercial and legal communication and, especially to avoid shock