Advertising is an efficient and effective technique used by organizations, mostly businesses, to promote goods, services, and ideas, as well as creating a strong and recognizable brand. It is a paid form of non-personal communication wherein business information regarding a brand, service, and product is broadcasted to the target audience to sell a service, merchandise, or idea. Advertising supplements other the other promotion tools which all aim at influencing the target audience to maintain or increase the customer base. There are different ways of advertising, which include display adverts through social media platforms. Also, the use of print press such as newspapers and magazines, outdoor advertising, radio and podcasts, direct mail, video adverts, product placement, event marketing and email marketing. Most products, services and ideas available in the market have competing substitutes, which results in stiff competition. Some organizations use unethical advertising practices in a bid to influence customers and some of the information relayed to the people is often misleading, make false claims or use methods such as nudity and abuse of drugs, which go against moral values. The paper illustrates the impact of authorities mandated with safeguarding the interest of people should safeguard industrial regulations and legislations that protect people from unethical advertising practices.
In the day to day living, people encounter advertising in different forms. Advertising is all around us, and we cannot run away from it. When reading the newspaper, watching TV or even driving along a highway, one is bound to come across a product or service being advertised. With the emergence of digital technology, the internet, smartphones and computers, adverts often pop up on the screen, persuading one to buy a certain product. It plays an important role in influencing our lifestyle and preferences. Advertising forms persuasive communication, which is aimed to influence people to make decisions that favor the advertiser. Digital advertising which includes Google and social media promotion are on the increase and with people spending long hours on digital screens, it is alarming that the amount of advertising information an individual can be exposed to in a single day. Advertising is Critical in influencing consumer behavior. The models of advertising like AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action) and ELM (Elaboration Likelihood Model) are strategically developed in a way that not only does the advertisements raise awareness about a product, but they create an interest for the person to purchase the product (Blackwelder et al., 2016 p.6).
Ethical Issues Faced By Companies
The unethical practices have elicited conversations with advocates of social justice coming out to defend the society whenever an advert that violates moral values emerges. However, with the ethical values in advertising sometimes ambiguous, the people continue being exposed to unethical advertisements. False, unverified, and exaggerated claims in advertising are widespread in many nations and with companies giving false information to lure customers into purchasing a certain product. There have been cases of uproar in the past when companies released advertisements that mislead the public. The Volkswagen Advertisement Scandal in 2015 is an excellent example of a company releasing advertisement that is unfactual. In the scandal dubbed as the Dieselgate or the Emissiongate, Volkswagen company made claims that some of its vehicles had an engine with the ability to burn clean diesel fuel, and therefore, minimizing on gas emission (Blackwelder et al., 2016, p.7). The company had sold the vehicles for seven by advertising them as environmentally friendly, but the claim was later found to be false. The aired commercials claimed that vehicles from Volkswagen emitted fewer greenhouse gases while maintaining a satisfactory acceleration. The advert urged potential car buyers to think of buying the Volkswagen model as a way of "promoting eco-friendly driving and green initiative" (Blackwelder et al., 2016, p.7). The company was hailed for its "clean-diesel" technology and went to win the coveted and prestigious "Green Car of the Year" award by the Green Car Journal in 2009 and 2010.
However, the claims were found to be untrue in 2015. A team of investigators found out that it was not the Volkswagen engine that burned clean diesel, but rather, Volkswagen had developed a software that would detect when the vehicle was being tested for emissions (Blackwelder et al., 2016, p.8). The software would change the mode of the car by changing the fuel pressure, injection timing, and exhaust-gas recirculation. During testing, the change engine mode would significantly reduce the number of emissions to the required amount to trick the testers into believing the volume of exhaust gases was low and compliant to the Federal Emissions Level Regulation Act (Blackwelder et al., 2016, p.8). However, during normal driving, the engine software would switch to a different mode and when the engine was in the normal drive mode, the number of emissions exceeded the required level. Therefore, the company's claims were found to be false, and therefore, the claims in the advert lacked the moral principle of honesty (Blackwelder et al., 2016, p.8). Volkswagen suffered a damaged reputation and faced lawsuits and fines.
Another component of unethical advertising is prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination. Moral principles and values forbid any form of discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, racial, and cultural orientation. There have been instances in where advertisements violated this moral principle. Dove Drop's advertisement faced criticism for posting an advert that was racially insensitive stereotyping black people as dirty. According to the advert, a black woman suddenly turned to a white woman after using Dove soap. The advert depicted the black woman as dirty and the 'magical' Dove soap washes the black woman to 'whiteness.' The Dove Drops soap advert caused uproar and was seen to resonate with the adverts during the era of racial segregation, which featured a white boy telling a black boy to use fairly soap to clean the dirt all over him. The public outcry forced the company to pull down the advert and make an apology. Previously in 2011, the Dove Drops company has also been brought to scrutiny for airing a discriminatory racial advert that was used 'before' and 'after' pictures whereby the 'before' picture showed an African-American woman with cracked skin and the 'after' picture shows a white woman with a smooth body (Blackwelder et al., 2016, p.9). The ad placed the words 'visibly more beautiful skin' under the picture of the white lady. The advert insinuated that white was beautiful and black was ugly. Therefore, the adverts contravened moral values and principles that prohibit all forms of discrimination.
Utilitarian and Deontology Ethical Theories
There are ethical theories and perspectives that have different proposals on moral values and defining what can be perceived as right or wrong. Utilitarianism ethical value promotes actions that maximize the happiness and wellbeing of the majority of people in a population. The rightfulness of an action is judged by the proportion the action to create happiness, while an action that promotes the reverse is judged as wrong. The moral values in this theory are inclined to creating the greatest good for the greatest proportion of the population (Barrow, 2015, p. 9). In consideration of Utilitarianism ethical theory, the actions of Volkswagen in developing a misleading advert can be adjudged to be ethically wrong. The car buyers were duped by claiming that the company was selling them fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly cars. The car owners were must have felt unhappy on realizing that they cars they bought were not in the condition the advert had claimed. Volkswagen owners received the damning revelations with shock and frustration with some demanding compensation. The action also increased despondency to the car owners because they were now forced to pay higher taxes for vehicles because the cars were found to emit greenhouse gases about the stipulated (Barrow, 2015, p. 9). Also, cheating about the gas emissions exposed the general public to inhale toxic gases and therefore causing harm to people. Furthermore, the car award organizers must have felt fooled by believing that the Volkswagen car was eco-friendly. By all Utilitarian ethical value evaluations, Volkswagen's actions were wrong.
Also, the actions of Dove Drops Company to put adverts that are racially discriminating against black people cannot be justified. Racial discrimination doe no greater good to anyone, and therefore the actions are adjudged to be morally wrong. According to reports, the advert caused anger and uproar and therefore, the action brought more unhappiness among the people and therefore, the Utilitarian ethical value makes the Dove and Drops Company was wrong in their action to send information in the form of an advert that hurt the feelings of people (Barrow, 2015, p. 11).
Another ethical theory in moral philosophy is the deontology ethical theory. In this theory, the morality of an action is based on whether the action itself is right or wrong based on a series of rules (Barrow, 2015, p. 12). The emphasis is on the action itself and not the consequences of the action. Universal moral laws require that people should be honest in their actions and should not cheat or tell a lie (Barrow, 2015, p. 12). Volkswagen was not honest in their dealings and they cheated deliberately. For instance, the firm was lying to people that they were selling environmentally friendly cars knowing well that the vehicles had high gas emissions and only used a software trick to lie that the cars had less greenhouse gas radiations. Therefore, according to the ethical morals in deontology theory, Volkswagen was wrong in their actions. Also, universal moral rules prohibit racial discrimination. The action of Doves and Drops was discriminatory and violated the set of universal rules and therefore, the advertisement by the company was wrong and unethical.
Globalization Challenge in Advertising
Globalization has introduced new challenges in the advertising industry that ere not there in the past. The emergence of digital technology has come with an unprecedented capacity for businesses to go international and expand the business beyond the countries of origin. Effective advertising can create awareness of a product overseas and contribute to the expansion of a business. However, advertising for a global market comes with ethical dilemmas that most likely do not appear when dealing in a single country. The cultural differences that occur between societies make it hard to develop an advert that can be suitable for all the audience. Humor is used in advertising, especially in the print press, like newspapers and magazines to grab the attention of the reader (Ford, Mueller, Taylor, and Hollis, 2011, p.51). However, such a method becomes problematic to use in promotion in a global market because it is considered humorous in one part of the world or maybe perceived as inappropriate or insulting in another part of the world. Also, there are challenges in methods of communication and the approach of forming business relationships. For example, an American may be in a hurry to strike a business deal while the Japanese may be interested in building relationships before engaging in a serious business deal.
Advertising Industry Regulation and Legislation
As a way of protecting the consumers in Europe, the EU has rules that make unethical advertising an offens...
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