The Ethical Problem in Advertising
By Elizabeth Webb
The average person sees up to and over 3,000 advertisements per day. That number can increase or decrease depending on where a person goes or what they do during the day. Advertising agencies have one main job to accomplish and that is to ensure that the truth is told and delivered in a matter that is tasteful and appropriate. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates advertising. Under the FAQ’s for small business, truth-in-advertising rules are “Advertising must be truthful and non-deceptive, advertisers must have evidence to back up their claims and advertisements cannot be unfair (Ftc.gov).” The FAQ’s go into further detail to outline what makes an advertisement deceptive and unfair.
According to an article by David Ingram, a writer for Demand Media, regarding the ethical and legal issues of Advertising, “The United States highly regulates some forms of vice, prohibits others and gives still others a free hand. For example, cigarette advertising is only permitted on specific media, excluding television and radio, while alcohol advertising is allowed on all media.”
When it comes to advertising, PETA’s advertising often takes the cake of being unethical. BuzzFeed, features an article of the 12 worst PETA Ads of all time.
Outdoor poster put up in Germany. Chicken Holocaust.
PETA advertising campaigns always seem to push the limit and attract attention. Yet, some of the 12 ads featured in the article exploit women, cultures and a piece of history like the Holocaust. I’m all for animal rights but at what point does depicting a naked pregnant woman as a pig make me want to support such a campaign? The Holocaust campaign makes me shake my head. While it is deceptive in showing the treatment of animals, it’s unfair to victims and survives of the Holocaust to be put on display on billboards. It does not dignify the human person.
When looking at the PETA ads, it does raise the question of is this really ethical or unethical? One of the most significant problems with advertising is that the agency producing the advertisements doesn’t think they are being unethical until the campaign is out among the world for people to actually view. Building an ad campaign from the design up, we become attached to the work. It is our baby. All it takes though is one critic to point out the flaw.
The bottom line is that all advertising agencies should follow the rules laid out to them no matter the type of advertisement that is being published or produced. In order to be ethical, be truth and non-deceptive, the copy and art directors need to put themselves in their viewer’s position. They need to step outside the world of advertising and look at the piece they’ve created. There should be a sense of social responsibility to be ethical no matter the line of work. Advertising has the ability to be powerful and thought provoking or down right offensive and vulgar.
“Advertising FAQ’s: A Guide for Small Business.” Advertising FAQ’s: A Guide for Small Business. Federal Trade Commission, 01 Apr. 2001. Web. 17 Mar. 2015.
Ingram, David. “List of Ethical & Legal Issues When Advertising.” Small Business. Demand Media, n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2015.
“The 12 Worst PETA Ads Of All Time.” BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed Staff, 14 Jan. 2013. Web. 19 Mar. 2015.