Ethical Issues in Advertising
Ethics are moral principles and values that govern the actions and decisions of an individual or group. The decisions of marketers in advertising should be ethical which is appropriate and within the guidelines of industry. The following are some of the ethical issues in advertising.
Advertising Harmful products
Advertising harmful products are considered unethical. They may abide by law. But still they are not ethical. A good example of this involves advertising for harmful products such as cigarettes . Given the high incidence of lung cancer and other smoking-related illnesses among the smokers, many people would consider advertising for cigarettes as an unethical business practice.
Ethical issues must be considered in integrated marketing communication decisions. Advertising and promotion are areas where a lapse in ethical judgement can result in actions that are highly visible and very damaging to a company.
Colleges may impose restrictions on their students that include seeking sponsorship or in support of athletic, cultural events by tobacco and alcoholic beverage companies and discourage them from seeking advertisements from such companies.
A good business should be ethical. “Good ethics is good business in the long run “. A business which tries to be ethical will soon have an edge over its competitors. Thus, ethics in business, signifies the social responsibilities of a businessman.
When is Advertising considered unethical?
Advertising is considered unethical when
1. It gives false information.
2. It degrades the rival’s product or substitute product.
3. It makes exaggerated or tall claims.
4. It is against the national and public interest.
5. It gives misguiding information,
6. It conceals information that vitally affects human life.
7. It is obscene or immoral.
Forms of Unethical advertising
Unethical advertising can take any of the following forms
1. The use of sex, especially the use of women as sex objects
It is true in case of many products like after shave lotion, motor cycles, etc., in which the women are used in advertisements but in real life, women have nothing to do with these products.
2. Alcohol Advertising
Alcohol advertising is banned on broadcast and print media in India. But we can find manufacturers of alcohol advertising for Soda, in an effort to keep the brand name afresh in the minds of the consumers.
3. Tobacco Advertising
Tobacco advertising is considered an unethical advertising practice. All cigarette advertisements should carry a Statutory warning that Smoking is injurious to health in order to highlight the risks involved. But in reality, the advertisers release very colorful and catchy advertisements of cigarettes that give an impression, especially to the youth that smoking cigarettes is indeed graceful.
4. False Claims
a. If an air-conditioning company advertises that it uses imported compressors in their machines for ensuring better performance while actually using an indigenously manufactured one, then it is a case of false claim.
b. Advertisements offering mixtures and substances that claim to possess the ability to prevent people from ageing are categorized as unethical.
5. Exaggerated Claims
Such claims include those that make an assurance which may not be true. For example, if a shampoo manufacturer claims that their product will remove dandruff in hair forever even when used only once, is a case of an exaggerated claim.
6. Unverified claims
The language used in such advertisements will be quite ambiguous. For example, if a company advertises that its product offers instant hi-energy drink for children. But the question arises what do we mean by instant hi-energy drink and what are its parameters? And also if there is no scientific verification of the energy it possesses, such advertisements are included under unverified claims.
Effects of Advertising on Values and Life Styles
Advertisements affect the value systems and life styles of people. Values refer to what one values most. All of us have a value system. In our country, simple living, spiritualism, chastity, generosity, etc., are certain values we hold dear to our hearts. Life styles refer to a person’s pattern of living as expressed in his/her activities, interests, appearance and opinions.
Effect on Values
Advertisements, chiefly aimed at commercial profits, cannot but stress materialistic value systems as opposed to spiritual values. Buy before stock closes, you can afford one more TV go for a bigger refrigerator; own a posh suburban flat; a luggage you would like to be seen with.
All these catchy advertisements simply emphasize adding more and more to one’s possessions. They make people neglect certain finer elements in life — spiritual pursuit, appreciation of nature, poetry, listening to music, being polite and patriotic fervor.
Advertisements with commercial objectives cannot afford to be moral bound always. Nowadays, multinational companies pump in lot of amount of money for an advertisement campaign much to the dismay of local companies, struggling for survival. Ethics, i.e., fairness in means and ends of one’s actions, are seldom cared for in advertising. There is lot of distortion and deception.
Improving Advertising Ethics
Measures for curbing unsocial and unethical advertising are listed below.
1. A Statute designed to discourage fraud in advertising.
2. A better Business Bureau, an organization of businessmen, for the purpose of discouraging unfair commercial practices.
3. Code to govern advertising copy by Association of National Advertisers.
4. Several reputed publishers in print media should keeping a strict vigil over their advertisements.
5. The Information & Broadcasting Ministry should also keep a close watch over the advertisements in radio and television.