Advertising Ethics

Topics: Advertising, Marketing, Consumer protection Pages: 5 (1316 words) Published: October 15, 2010
Criteria for Ethical & Unethical Advertising

When a company markets a product, advertisers will use various strategies and techniques to lure consumers into purchasing their products. Sine the company’s ultimate goal is to get you to purchase their product, they will often misinform or mislead a consumer into thinking that their product can deliver or perform in someway it does not. The motive behind unethical advertising is the burden companies are constantly tasked with of breaking through the clutter of competing message to build brands during a period of economic stagnation and the rising costs of doing business. (Beltramini, 2003)

There have been various advertising laws implemented over the last decade aiming to protect consumers. These laws require company advertisers to be truthful about their products and be able to substantiate their claims. (, 2009) . The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the government agency that enforces these laws and has created the FTC Act that demands that advertising must be truthful and non-deceptive; advertisers must have evidence to back up their claims; and advertisements cannot be unfair. (, 2009) It is difficult for some companies to draw the line to tell if their ad campaign or promotion is unethical or not under the FTC Act. There are many resources and guides to help companies verify that they are complying with federal advertising laws, but not all companies are good at self-governing themselves or they still try to get around the Act’s provisions to make it seem up to standard. Company advertisements must constantly compete for consumer’s time and attention and it must be as persuasive and credible as possible to build brand loyalty. In my opinion, not enough attention is given to advertising ethics. I think there needs to be more regulation services monitoring advertisement use of product deception, false advertising to children, ads for legal advices, negative misconstrued political ads, and stereotyping in ads. (Hyman, 1994)

I think the best way to determine whether or not an advertisement is unethical or not is by initiating and implementing measures similar to the Canadian Code of Advertising. Their code has similar guidelines and principles as the ones set by the USA FDA but they pay particular attention to responsible advertising issues related to the following practices:

Accuracy and Clarity
Disguised Advertising Techniques
Price Claims
Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals
Advertising to Children
The Code of Advertising Standards was fist published in 1963 and since then has been updated periodically to keep its provisions up to date and relevant. The way it works is if consumers feel that a particular advertisement does not comply with the Code of Advertising Standards, they may complain to the ASC. These concerns are referred to the national or regional Consumer Response Councils (or Advisory Panels). These independent bodies, composed of senior industry and public representatives, meet regularly to review and decide on complaints.(Media Awareness Network, 2009) Also the code is designed to be utilized as an instrument for self-regulating but it is also intended for use by the Courts as a reference document within the framework of applicable laws. (Media Awareness Network, 2009)

Another consumer advertisement watchdog out there is a non-profit anti-consumerism organization called Ad Busters Media Foundation that was created back in 1989. Their website was designed to disseminate factual information through their “cyberpetitions to daily critical mass tips, from exposing corporate propaganda, to downshifting your lifestyle and treading lightly on the planet”. ( They consider themselves a global network of “culture jammers” and creative’s working to change the way information flows, the way corporations wield power, and the way meaning is produced in our society. (

References: Beltramini, R. (2003). Advertising Ethics: The Ultimate Oxymoron? Journal of Business Ethics, 48, p. 215-216. Retrieved March 5, 2009 from Business Source Complete database.
Canadian Code of Advertising Standards. (2009). Advertising Standards Canada. Retrieved March 5, 2009 from
Dutta, K. (2009, Jan.). How to avoid getting the chop. Revolution Magazine. Retrieved March 5, 2009 from Business Source Complete Database.
Hosford, C. (2008, Sept.). Behavioral targeting comes under fire. B to B, 93(12), p. 1-40. Retrieved March 5, 2009 from Business Source Complete database (AN 35127505).
Hyman, M., Tansey, R., & Clark, J. (1994, Sept.). Research on Advertising Ethics: Past, Present, and Future. Journal of Advertising, 23(3). Retrieved March 5, 2009 from Business Source Complete database.
Marketers, Police Thyself. (2009, Jan.). Adweek, 50(3). Retrieved March 5, 2009 from Business Source Complete database (AN 36233574).
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