In the article “Ethics in Advertising”, Chris Moore tackles a few modern ethical dilemmas that face everyone from the advertisers to the consumers. The topics that truly questioned my ethics were those from the Cause –related marketing and Condoms sections respectively. Concerning the cause-related marketing Moore asks if “the extra business and good will these companies stand to gain compromise the good that the causes do? What are the ethics of enlightened self-interest? To answer the first part, I would say no. It does not compromise the good that the causes do. I am looking at it from a simple perspective. Of course from a more complex point of view the source or motivation behind the funds could taint the reputation of the organization receiving the money and in the long run affect future contributions. While this holds some truth, if the organization is truly doing good then its supporters will continue to contribute and the manner in which said group uses the funds would not change, ergo allowing them to continue the aforementioned good. For these reasons I believe that despite the source the causes and their good deeds should not be hindered, and if so, not in the long run.
My response to the second question about the ethics of enlightened self-interest is that there are no ethics of enlightened self-interest. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines ethic as “the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation; a set of moral principles” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ethics). The fact that we are using the word “self-interest” nullifies any opportunity for ethics to have a major role in our decision making.
This is a business decision not an ethical decision. In 2010 Cone Communications, an advertising agency, conducted a study on cause-marketing and found that 88% of Americans think that it is fine for companies to do this type of marketing and 85% say that their opinion or perception of a company or product is more positive when it champions a cause they personally support (http://www.coneinc.com/cause-grows-consumers-want-more). The consumer is asking for more knowledge of corporate affiliates and community work, ergo businesses would do well to make those affiliates and causes known. There are those that would say it is shameful to brag about or advertise your charitable acts and kind deeds. If we were talking about an individual I would agree. A person with a large ego is annoying; a business with a large ego is advertising.
The next question that Moore posed was “If you were the Creative Director on the Trojans account, is that[i] an ethical issue? This is not an ethical issue in my opinion. Here is why. Although married persons may not be the largest segment of the population using Trojan condoms, they are a portion of the consumer population for this product therefore it is a true depiction of potential consumers. Ads are not meant to be demographically representative of the population using a particular product. They are meant to advertise the product accurately and honestly.
It is honest to say that a married couple could use a condom. We also have to think about who the product is targeting. More than likely they are targeting adults in relationships that are stable enough to purchase these relatively expensive condoms. With that in mind, most long term adult relationships typically take the form of marriage. This should not pose an ethical issue for a Creative Director.
There are shades of gray as Moore suggests in the beginning of the article in question. The choices are never quite as black and white as they seem but (y)our ethics should be. Clearly defined morals and limits are really what we need to identified on the part of the advertisers as well as the other groups involved in development and production. These principles are what will shape your business practices and ultimately convert most ethical dilemmas into more obvious decisions.
[i] One example of context is that people in condom ads usually wear wedding rings. Because even though the biggest market probably lies outside the Marital Bed, the truth about where all those condoms are really going raises some touchy issues.