The Role of Ethics in Advertising and the Effects of Social Media

Term Paper, 2014

14 Pages


What is the role of ethics/truth in advertising, and how does a social medium affect this role?

Brief Overview

In this study, the examination revolves around three main issues which include ethics, advertising and social media effects. Ethics basically refers to moral principles which control an individual behavior with respect to activities carried out. Alternatively, advertising refers to method by which sellers communicate to buyers in the market. The study will look at ethics in advertising as a way to govern communication between buyers and sellers. In addition, the study will examine the effects of social media on ethics in advertising (Ibrahim, 2008). When talking about ethics in advertising, it refers to well defined principles upon which communication between buyers and sellers is governed. Therefore, this implies that ethic is classified as an important tool in the advertising industry. Advertising has many benefits; however, certain points employed don’t match the required ethical norms.

The concept of ethical advertising

According to studies, ethical adverts are those characterized by truth without fake or false claims. Such adverts are considered to be within the decency limits. As for the current advertisements, they are exaggerated and contain too much puffing to lure customers (Kennedy and Abbatangelo, 2005). In such a case, the advertiser is classified to lack the understanding of principles and norms of ethical advertising. In such a situation, the advertiser is not in a position to distinguish correct or wrong contents of the advertisement. In normal practice, advertiser is mainly focused on how to increase sales volumes and attract a larger customers base. In addition, they are geared towards increasing product demand through the use of a well colored and presented advertisement. Advertisers usually claim that products they offer are the best in the market in terms of quality, cost effectiveness among other benefits that customers may derive from the products. In the real sense, most of the adverts made to customers are noted to be containing false information this misleading them and this scenario is referred to as unethical (LaRose, Mastro and Eastin, 2001). To give a good example which explains this situation, consider an advert showing evening snacks meant for small children. In the advert, coloring and gluing are used in order for the product to appear glossy and attractive. In such a case, consumers who watch television may get convinced to purchase the product without thinking twice on whether the actual information about the product is relayed.

In normal practice, there is a direct relationship between ethics in advertising, the advertising purpose and finally the nature of advertisement. Basically, exaggerations made in advertisements are necessary so that the necessary benefits about the product are proved. There is another example. Look at the sanitary napkin advertisements where a napkin was dropped in some river and was in a position to soak all waters from the river. In such a situation, the advertisement was mean to inform customers particularly women that their products are of high quality (Livingstone, 2008). In the real sense, customers obviously know that it is not practically possible for the nappy to absorb all the rive waters, but the advert was acceptable and could not be classified as unethical.

Does Ethics Depend on What One Believes in?

This is true in a number of situations. For instance, in case an advertiser has an advert and strongly believes that customers would comprehend the content and meaning of the advertisement, get persuaded, think and eventually act, this similarly may create a positive impression thus erasing unethical nature of the advertisement (Tavani and Grodzinsky, 2002). On the other hand, in case the advertiser has a traditional believe that customers can be fooled through the use of impractical things such as purchasing a lottery ticket which could make one a millionaire or clicking fingers which could fully furnish one’s home or office, it may not work well for the advertiser. This is referred to as unethical.

Considering a recent issue which was raised by Vetican, it was claimed that there are about three main moral principles which govern advertising. These include Upholding Human Dignity, Social Responsibility, and Truthfulness. Looking at the approach used by big companies, they rarely lie because it is a requirement that points included in the advert must be proved to ad regulation bodies (Tufekci, 2008). In most cases, it is necessary that truth regarding product or service being sold is revealed for the betterment of both the company and the public. Let us consider the following points regarding advertising.

- Pharmaceutical Advertising. Companies in the pharmaceutical industry employ advertising strategy as a way to create awareness. The main point in the adverts which is emphasized upon by advertisers is that medicines cure; however, they rarely give information regarding the side effects or associated risks. This obviously shows that most advertisers talk of positive values while neglecting the negative effects associated with the product.

- Children. The main sellers in product advertisements are the children. The reason is that they have a convincing power to lure buyers to purchase a product. The thing is that in case children are used in ads, they should not be casted handling activities independently, for instance, holding milk bottles, toy playing and teeth brushing. These should be shown when an adult person is assisting them to handle the activities. It is logical for parents to be shown getting involved with their children when advertising certain products and services.

- Alcohol. Up to the current market place, no advertisement has been shown with a person practically drinking the actual liquor. In these ads, the demonstrators usually use sodas and mineral water which pose the actual liquor brand name. For such ads, they are referred to as surrogate adverts. Practically, whether there are alcohol advertisements or not, it is highly possible that loyal consumers will continue drinking alcohol one wau or another.

- Cigarettes and Tobacco. In the real sense, tobacco and cigarettes need not be advertised because people consuming these products are likely to suffer severe health issues and cancer. Practically, such adverts are banned in a number of countries namely Singapore, Finland, India and Norway.

- Ads for Social Causes. Adverts associated with social causes are classified as ethical and should be acceptable among people. Nevertheless, advertisements associated with condoms and pills for contraceptives should be controlled because they exhibit unethical nature. Basically, such activity may compromise the decency and morality particularly in areas where education and knowledge of the product are limited. Based on the approach mentioned above, it becomes vital for advertisers to be responsible for ensuring that ads are self regulated.

How Ethic Advertising Can be Achieved Within a Company?

The management should put in place a well designed code of regulation which includes the legal points, truth, ethical norms, and decency. In addition, they should have a well kept record which tracks all the activities and ensures that those advertisements which are deficit in fulfilling the codes are eliminated (Tyma, 2007). Similarly, all the consumers should be informed about the specific self regulatory codes which have been designed by the company. Attention should be also placed on customer complaints regarding the adverts being used in the media. Finally, it is recommended that transparency is maintained thought the systems of the company.

How Will the Implementation of the Above Facts Affect Advertising Performance?

When the above system is implemented in the organization, the company will take responsibilities of all activities they are engaged in. Similarly, the system will minimize chances of interruptions by regulatory bodies and critics. In addition, these activities will assist in gaining customer confidence thus luring them to develop trust and loyalty on the products. Basically, with rise in the use of social media, the natural aspect is when a correlation is made with respect to individuals using the mode. Given the fact that there are a number of exceptions regarding correlation especially on the data which considers the universal truth, the use of social networking and the behavior of users are two important aspects.

The Perspective of Ethics Resource Center (ERC)

ERC is a non-profit organization based in the United States which is mainly involved in independent research. They monitor advancements on the ethical standard issues both for private and public organizations. For the last two decades, they have managed to produce NBES or National Business Ethics Survey which is freely available to the interested parties in the public. This enables the employees and the public to give their views regarding workplace ethics. According to the ERC president’s view, ERC is classified as the mainly longitudinal study which fully represents the United States workforce views particularly in the business field. For example, one of the latest reports which were produced by the organization managed to explore the relationship between social media and ethics (Foley, 1999). In the current market place, social media has been branded an important component of culture, and the question which people remain wondering about is whether new technology is affecting views of people regarding the work ethics. In addition, the past few years have been characterized by people and companies drawing policies relating to social networking both for workplace purpose and advertising. This now makes it important for the examination to look at the effect of ethics on social networking.


Excerpt out of 14 pages


The Role of Ethics in Advertising and the Effects of Social Media
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Marketing Ethics
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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role, ethics, advertising, effects, social, media
Quote paper
Majed Almutairi (Author), 2014, The Role of Ethics in Advertising and the Effects of Social Media, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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