Ethics in Advertising
Advertising is any paid form of non-personal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods, or services by an identified sponsor. In today's fast-paced and high-tech age, businesses use advertising to make prospects aware of their products and services and to earn profits through increasing their sales and sales turnover. Advertising reflects contemporary society. The making of an ad copy, its message, its illustrations, the product advertised and the appeal used, all these have a social flavour. Advertising affects society and gets affected by it. It is therefore, necessary to use this tool with caution to avoid a corrosive effect on social values. Consumers are bombarded with more than 1500 commercial messages a day. For most companies, the question is not whether to communicate but rather what to say, how to say it, to whom and how often. To reach target markets and build brand equity in this cluttered market advertisers sometimes overstep social, ethical and legal norms. Ethical norms deal with values, morals and ideals. They give an idea of what is fair and unfair or what is right and wrong. The ethical principles underline social policies and are dictated by the society we live in. Like any other profession, the advertising field is governed by the laws and enactment governing the mass media. By citing real cases this project discusses the nature of problems faced by the consumers through misleading advertisements and evaluates the relative efficacies of institutional mechanisms, laws and regulations available for easy redressal of consumers. In order to understand the issue discussed, it is important to first understand the meanings of the two key words ‘advertising’ and ‘ethics’. Advertising: It is any paid form of non-personal presentation of ideas, goods, or services by an identified sponsor. The objective of advertising is to make the target audience aware of a product or service and convince them to avail of it. By doing so an advertisement attempts to create or increase the sales of an already existing product (or service). Ethics: Ethics in Latin is ‘ethic us’ and in Greek is ‘ethikos’. It has originated from the word ‘Ethos’. Ethics are moral principles and values that govern the actions and decisions of an individual or a group.
People in advertising spend a lot of their time dealing with ethical choices, and those choices are almost never black and white. Telling truth is the basic ethical standard. The world’s best example of truth in advertising may be a tiny ‘Help Wanted’ ad that appeared in the London papers in 1900: ‘Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success. Ernest Shackelton.’ English men are very sporty and adventurous; hence the advertisement drew an overwhelming response. Shackelton’s Polar expedition turned out to be far, far worse than his bleak copy promised – a rare case of an advertisement over delivering on its claim. Ads of reputed companies almost never lie. They have to be able to prove what they say to their own corporate counsel, the ad agency’s lawyers, and the network’s approval committees and to any number of regulating bodies like the FDA and FTC; with atleast five different government agencies looking over their shoulder. The cost of getting caught is simply too high. So, they tell the truth but not always the whole truth. Like a lawyer’s job is to put his client in the best light so is the company’s job to put its product / service in the best light. For a company trying to sell something, an ad is like getting a job interview with millions of people all at once. The ad wants to make a good first impression but different people react differently. For e.g. During the 2000 Super Bowl, millions of people saw the commercial of Christopher...
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