Advertising Ethics: Alcohol and Tobacco

Topics: Advertising, Tobacco advertising, Tobacco Pages: 16 (6149 words) Published: July 31, 2013
I. Introduction
Commercial advertising is defined as, “communication between a seller and potential buyers that is publicly addressed to a mass audience and is intended to induce members of this audience to buy the seller’s product.” (Velasquez, 2012, p. 322) However, it is clear that advertising often delivers little information and is often accused of violating several ethical standards. The question begs to be asked, in the quest to sell a product, are advertisers in fact selling their souls? Advertising is essential to a company’s success and utilized to generate revenue and profits. While it can be argued that all advertisements are manipulative, the public deserves to know what options they have when making purchases. If advertising were consistent in its standards of use, (delivering only useful information with only words and no other image appeal) then there would be no predicament to its ethical framework. The fact remains that advertising can often be manipulative create false desires and the power advertising agencies exert over the general public is not being used responsibly. Essentially, advertising is trying to accomplish four objectives: first, advertisements are meant to create awareness, second they strive to establish a brand’s name and identity, third advertisements seek to provide information to the public in a way that is memorable and lastly, and controversially, advertisements are used to convince the consumer that he or she will be better off with their product. (Business Ethics: Truth in Advertising, film) Some advertisements have been accused of more egregious violations of ethical behavior, in particular advertisements for alcohol and tobacco. While the use of most products will not directly kill you, if alcohol and tobacco are used as instructed they will lead to death; these products have no redeeming value. Alcohol related deaths reached 80,000 in the year 2008 making it the third leading lifestyle cause of death in the United States. (www.cdc.gov) Cigarettes contain 70 known cancer-causing toxins such as arsenic, tar and formaldehyde; the same chemicals that are used to kill rats, pave roads and preserve the dead. In 2008 there were 443,000 deaths in the United States due to tobacco use including 49,000 from secondhand smoke exposure. “Based on current cigarette smoking patterns, an estimated 25 million Americans who are alive today will die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses, including 5 million people younger than 18 years of age.” (www.cdc.gov) Often accused of directing their marketing efforts towards teens and young adults (the obvious next generation of consumers) even while there are governmental regulations against doing so, the two industries are sophisticated in their efforts and still successfully manipulate viewers by creating false images of sex appeal, youth, healthful and fun lifestyles that have enticed millions to drink and smoke. Advertising for the products is seen through the use of celebrities, at sporting events, on billboards, in magazines and with the case of alcohol on daily television. If these products are known to kill people, then why are they being advertised and why do people use the products? This paper will focus on the larger social impact and more specific individual impact that advertising in the alcohol and tobacco industry has. The alcohol and tobacco industries are multi-billion dollar enterprises that likely see their bottom line in an economic sense, making decisions based on numbers and utility. However, key to understanding the ethical issues present in the advertising of alcohol and tobacco products is acknowledging that not just the shareholder’s interests should be considered, but rather all the stakeholders. There are several primary stakeholders whose roles must be analyzed including: the corporations who manufacturer products and promote the advertisements, the agencies who create the advertisements, the...
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