Advertising and Ethics

Advertising and Ethics

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    • 00:07

      [Advertising and Ethics]

    • 00:11

      CHRIS HACKLEY: My name is Chris Hackley.[Chris Hackley, Professor of Marketing, Royal Holloway,University of London] I'm a Professor of Marketingat Royal Holloway, University of London.This tutorial is about advertising and ethics.We're going to split it into three sections.The first section will ask, why should advertising be ethical.The second section will deal with Western ethical conceptsfor analyzing the ethicality of advertising.

    • 00:34

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: And the third section will examinethe uses of ethical controversy in advertising.[Why should advertising be ethical?]Advertising is a topic of controversy.Regularly, a particular advertisementbecomes noted in the press, or complained about

    • 00:55

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: by the general public, or by other bodies,and it may be investigated.Different countries have different formsof regulating advertising content, but in every countryit can sometimes be a very sensitive topic.However, I'd like to turn that issue around and askwhy should advertising be ethical.I think it's instructive to ask that question.

    • 01:18

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: Because when one considers that advertisinghas an economic purpose, and its purposeis to promote economic growth by facilitating competitionand by informing consumers of new offers.Without advertising, economies cannot grow.They can't have competitive activity.They can't have new products.They can't have new services.

    • 01:40

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: And they can't excite consumers in order to consume more,and the whole cycle of the economywould increase in velocity.So advertising is necessary to economic growth.However, one might ask, well theremust be limits on the kinds of things

    • 02:02

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: that advertising can say, surely.Because advertisers could tell us lies.They could try and sell us productsthat don't work properly, or that are dangerous.Furthermore, advertisers can sometimescreate communications which are provocative, or offensive,or even illegal.So there's a balance to be struck

    • 02:23

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: between advertising as an economic function, whichis necessary to economic growth, and advertisingas a form of social communication,which is very, very visible throughout society,and which, arguably, has an influenceon human behavior in societies that sometimescan be quite profound.So this is the difficulty facing advertising regulators.

    • 02:44

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: That on the one hand, they need to protect industriesfrom consumers who may be offendedat a great deal of advertising.But advertising must be allowed to functionso it can serve its purpose.On the other hand, consumers needto be protected from industries and their advertising,to some degree, because societies deserve

    • 03:04

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: some limits on what is consideredto be offensive or illegal or simply misleading.So advertisers have to operate within these boundaries.And this is why advertising and ethics tendsto be such a sensitive topic.Advertisers might mislead us as to the true natureof a product.They might exaggerate the benefits of the products.

    • 03:26

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: They might claim it is safe when it is not.They might also make us want somethingthat isn't necessarily good or healthy for us.So these sorts of problems are issues thatoften arise in advertising.And in the UK, for example, there'sa system of regulation whereby if just one person complainsabout an advertisement, then the UK advertising regulator

    • 03:47

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: will investigate that advertisement in orderto see whether it conforms to their code of practice.If it contravenes their code of practice,then the advertisement will be withdrawn.So different countries have different methodsof regulation, but they all agree on one thing.That advertising shouldn't be allowedto simply say whatever it likes, it

    • 04:08

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: should be regulated in some degree or other.[Examples of ethical problems in advertising]Advertisers face further dilemmaswhen trying to decide on whether their content isgoing to be acceptable or not.People have quite a legitimate concern

    • 04:29

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: with the way individuals and relationships areportrayed in advertising.So for example, advertising has oftenbeen criticized for its gender portrayals,for its portrayals of racial stereotypes,perhaps for its portrayals of relationships.One can see that advertising is a powerful cultural documentwhen one looks at histories of advertising, and looksat advertising of 50 years ago which would not

    • 04:50

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: be considered acceptable today.And indeed, some advertising todaywould not have been acceptable 50 years ago.So ideas about what is acceptable in advertisingchanges.And consumers have a right to expect that there shouldbe some constraints placed on the wayadvertisers can represent individuals, races, genders,

    • 05:10

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: different ethnicities, and so forth.So that representation should be fair, and it should be just,and it should be fair to the individuals concerned.On the other hand, the difficulty advertisers faceis that advertising is a very high profile and veryvisible form of communication.It's very susceptible to criticism,and it's very hard to find anybody who would defend it.

    • 05:31

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: Because as a form of discourse in society,advertising tends to be dismissed and belittled.None of us really have much patience with advertising.And we tend to be very quick to accuse advertisersof venalities, when, in fact, we quite enjoy advertising,as well.So the difficulty advertisers faceis that they will receive complaints sometimes

    • 05:53

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: from people who are looking for a platformfor their particular views.And that can be a very powerful form of getting publicityfor many people.Because those controversies become news,and the news media outlets publish those.So this is another reason why the issue of ethicalityin advertising is by no means clear cut or easy to assess.

    • 06:16

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: It's a difficult area, and it's a sensitive area,because both the economy and the consumersdeserve to be protected.[Western ethical concepts]I find it useful with my students,to try to talk about at the ethicality of advertising

    • 06:37

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: by using some concepts from western moral philosophy.In many ways, we respond subjectively to advertising.We look at an advertisement, and my opinion of it,may be different to yours.And my visceral reaction to it, may be very different to yours.In order to try to create a little bit of objectivity,I think these concepts can be useful in the analysis

    • 06:57

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: of advertising.Not to resolve what is ethically appropriate and ethically notappropriate, but simply to understand what'shappening a little better.[Deontology]The first western moral philosophy conceptI'd like to talk about is deontology.So deontology is the moral doctrine

    • 07:20

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: that acts are inherently right or wrong in themselves,regardless of their consequences.On a deontological basis, one could look at advertisementsand say, well, because of the contents of that advertisement,it may be correct, it may be incorrect.So for example, in the UK, we sometimesget advertisements that are trying to encourage

    • 07:41

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: people to drive more safely.And some of these advertisements are not very pleasant.One I remember, in particular, showed a motherdriving her kids to school in the morning,and then they have a crash, and the consequencesare very, very unpleasant.And the moral of the advertisementis that the kids were not wearing a seatbelt in the back of the car, and because of that,

    • 08:02

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: they were badly injured.Now for many people, seeing an advertisement like thatwhile you're eating breakfast is not very pleasant.It's rather shocking.So a lot of people would say from a deontological pointof view, that advertisement is ethically inappropriate.It's not something that we want to see.It's scaring people, and why should allowed.[Consequentialism]

    • 08:25

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: On the other hand, one can also invoke another conceptof moral philosophy, which is called consequentialism.So consequentialism is the doctrinethat acts are not inherently right or wrong in themselves,they should be judged on their consequences,and whether those consequences are good for peopleor not so good for people.So the people who created such an ad--

    • 08:47

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: to encourage mothers and fathers to makesure their children wear seat belts when they're ridingin the back of the car-- they would say, well,if that advertisement scares one person into wearing the seatbelts, or making the children wear the seat belts,and avoids one death, then it's worthwhile.It's worth scaring all those peopleand alarming all those people.

    • 09:08

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: So from a consequentialist's point of view,advertising should be judged not on the inherent contentof the ad, but on whether the consequences aregood for people or not.The problem with consequentialismas a concept for analyzing advertising,is that one could then argue that all consequencesof advertising are good if they promote economic growth,

    • 09:30

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: and polity is the greatest evil, thereforeall advertising should be allowed.However, one can look at individual advertisementsand say, well, the consequences could be very, very negativeif, for example, an advertiser isallowed to make incorrect claims about a new car.If that car turns out to be unsafe, the people driving it

    • 09:50

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: might get injured and might crash.So from a consequentialist point of view,one can look at individual advertisementsand decide whether they are ethically appropriateor ethically inappropriate.[Virtue ethics]The third philosophical concept I'dlike to talk about in the context of advertising

    • 10:10

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: is known as virtue ethics.Virtue ethics holds that it is the intention of the actor, notthe content of the act or the consequences of the act,but the intention of the actor that is important.So if the actors intention was to do good,and they acted in good faith, then whatever they've done

    • 10:30

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: is considered to be ethically appropriate.[Ethical controversy in advertising and brandpositioning]So for the final section of this tutorial,I'd like to talk a little bit about ethical controversyin advertising.Ethical controversy in advertisingis not necessarily a bad thing for a brand.

    • 10:51

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: Indeed, some brands are very astute at exploitingcontroversy by pushing the boundaries of whatthe public might find acceptable or unacceptable,and they make that a virtue.The most obvious examples of thisare where brands which are involved in the fashionor fragrance business, and they target younger consumers

    • 11:14

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: with their products.So, of course, the one thing younger consumers can allagree on, is that one thing they do enjoyis offending older consumers.So a lot of these brands play on this tendency for young peopleto want to thumb their nose at convention that'ssupported by older people.So, for example, there's a very sexualized advertisingin a lot of fashion advertisements.

    • 11:36

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: Which the people who the targets of the advertisement,the people to whom the ad is targeted,are not going to object at all because they find that quiteappropriate, and it's in keeping with the style of the product.Other people may complain.And the trick for a brand is to generate complaints

    • 11:56

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: from other people who are not their core consumers.If they can do that, then they can represent the brandis being edgy, pushing the boundaries, and controversial.And that can sometimes work quite wellfor the brand for a little while.For example, in the UK, a brand calledFrench Connection UK, or FCUK, wasvery successful for a little while in the 1990s

    • 12:20

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: by promoting the double entendre in their FCUK logo.And they very successfully challenged the advertisingregulators, and even confronted themwith some of their advertising.A lot of young people enjoyed that double entendre,and they took great pride in wearing the t-shirtswith FCUK on them.

    • 12:41

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: It worked very well for about 10 years.Suddenly it stopped being funny anymore.The joke wore thin, and the effectiveness of advertisingfell away.So ethical controversy can be quite a difficult thingfor brands to manage.It could work for a little while.Sometimes it can backfire.Benetton, for example, have very successfully

    • 13:03

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: courted controversy for many, many yearsduring the 1980s and early '90s with a seriesof advertisements that were enormously talked about.They tried to revive that more recently, just a coupleof years ago, with a campaign that fell rather flatand a lot of negative publicity, and quitea negative sort of backlash.So controversy a difficult thing.

    • 13:25

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: And brands have to be quite astute in the waythat they manage it, otherwise it can backfire on them.[Key points]In this tutorial, I've talked about ethics in advertising.I've touched upon just a few of the many ethical issues thatcan occur in advertising, such as mis-selling,giving of offense, giving false product information.

    • 13:45

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: And I've also talked about some of the western conceptsof ethical philosophy that can be useful in picking apartwhen an advertisement is ethically appropriate,and when it is ethically not appropriate.Finally, I talked a little bit about the uses of controversyin advertising as a very sensitive, but alsovery powerful, communication form

    • 14:06

      CHRIS HACKLEY [continued]: that some brands can use to make their brand seem particularlyedgy and pushing the boundaries.

Advertising and Ethics

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Abstract

Professor Chris Hackney discusses the ethics of advertising. The professor uses western philosophy to explain why advertising should be ethical and presents case studies to serve as examples of ethical and unethical advertising.

SAGE Video Tutorials
Advertising and Ethics

Professor Chris Hackney discusses the ethics of advertising. The professor uses western philosophy to explain why advertising should be ethical and presents case studies to serve as examples of ethical and unethical advertising.

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