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Advertising Ethics: Truth in Commercials

The communicative stimulation was known in ancient centuries. With the help of signs and symbols, as well as inscriptions on the walls traders reported to the citizens about the availability of certain goods on the tray, as well as on future developments, such as the slave trade or fighting gladiators.

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Due to mass illiteracy traders also had to resort to use help of drum up – people who stood along the street or on busy city intersections and loudly informed bystanders about the goods. At that time, advertising was informative; it was not the element of persuasion. In the XV-th century, advertising became a mass product. This happened thanks to Johann Gutenberg, who invented typography. Now advertisers can use different forms, style and content of printed posters, promotional leaflets and newspaper ads (Spence, 2004).

Rapid flowering of the advertising business was in the XIX-th century, when the first advertising agents, have formed small agencies, created for wholesalers ads, purchased copyrights. In 1891, advertising began to appear images, allowing messages to convey the ideas to the masses (Ferrell, 2006).

In the beginning of the XX-th century advertisements were compared with each other. The phrases “that’s why…” used in advertising goods of daily demand, as well as in social campaigns to protect the environment or to call for military service. Ernst Elmo Calkens created a style of advertising, reminiscent of the original works of art and entered into the pages of magazines.

In the early 30’s famous originator of advertising Claude Hopkins (his work “Scientific Advertising”, published in 1923, is considered one of the most significant in the last century, and Hopkins himself is recognized as one of the greatest of advertising copywriters) announced the results of years of testing, advertising, substantiated basic principles and laws, open on the analysis of advertising orders by mail. Thus, advertising can not be compromised providing false information about the product, it is necessary to describe the characteristics and properties clearly and preferably in comparison with other advertising, a product using different methods. This principle has become fundamental to many subsequent laws on advertising, which survived to nowadays.

After the Great Depression of 1929 in the U.S. advertising budgets have been significantly reduced, so specialists in the field of advertising had to invent a cheaper, but no less effective ways to attract the attention of consumers. For example, there are ads with original and intriguing titles. Advertising text differed abundance of exaggerations, wordiness, proposals and phrases have been reduced and short and sonorous words have become increasingly important (Spence, 2004).

The number of advertising has grown rapidly; the consumer was lost in the motley titles, and similar messages. The change in approach to advertising has happened in 50 years when American Rosser Reeves said that this advertisement should make “a unique offer (UTP) and carry an information advantage, an important customer and not in the advertising of competitors. It was Reeves who created well-known slogans to present “M & M” ‘s melts in your mouth, not in the hands “, stressed the dignity of new chocolates and” presented “solid chocolate, from which they are made. The era of creativity is marked by the introduction of advertising maximum drama, participation in promotional campaigns fictitious characters (Ferrell, 2006).

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The period of 80-90’s of the twentieth century was very important for advertising. Thanks to television, radio, outdoor advertising, and later the Internet advertising reached unprecedented heights. Elements of competition, accuracy and expressiveness slogans characteristic of advertising images, the departure from the standards and eroticism, but the main multimillion advertising budgets – all of which became the foundation for the development of the consumer consciousness. Singling out young people between 18 and 25 years as a target segment, manufacturers of advertising forget that other age groups are also in contact with the media.

Advertising is a dynamic public forum, which meets the interests of business, creativity, and the needs of consumers and legal regulation of government. It is difficult not raise doubts, not to catch the sharp-sighted view of critics, and not to be rejected by a consumer when advertising has become so highly developed (Shaw, 2007).

Despite the fact that advertisers everywhere are faced with the legal regulation of advertising, it is impossible to define every question or resolve each claim, which may arise in the issuance of an appeal to the consumer. Questions ban advertising wine and drinks, perhaps solved a long time ago, but companies producing famous brands of alcohol are trying to circumvent the rules prescribed by law. An example of this situation can serve as a process, which involved a major Russian company, known primarily for alcohol products. After the ban of advertising of vodka in the media company decided to run TV commercials chocolates under the same brand.

Given that there are no restrictions on it in the law on advertising is not specified, the commission on ethics and legal issues still questioned the right of existence of a new advertising campaign. The argument was the fact that consumers, seeing and hearing the advertisement of chocolates or a product under the brand name of alcohol, inevitably recall the spirits, which in itself “pulls” on hidden advertising.

In addition to legal restrictions we can talk about the ethical considerations. Advertising convinces the consumer something to do. This ad is not merely provides consumer information about the product, its features and benefits for health, for use in the car, at work or at home.

There are several principles that should underlie of advertising. Many of them were still in the 80’s of the American Advertising Federation (AAF), some are the criteria that will help in resolving disputes in the advertising market:

  • Truthfulness. Advertisements must disclose the truth and significant facts, ignoring that may enter the consumer confusion. It is relevant to mention the so-called need for reservations. If advertising disclosed dignity of oak table, which is not oak actually, but made of material of another tree, the consumer needs to know about it. Or advertising of new tariffs of mobile connection, which deals with the round-the-clock rate of 0.05 cents per minute any time of day. It is at the bottom of the screen advertising posters or more small print indicated that the price per minute of connection does not extend to all tariff plans. Despite the fact that these techniques can in principle be seen as consumer fraud, they are still used in advertising for many years (Shaw, 2007).
  • Evidence. Advertising statements must be supported by evidence. It is desirable not to hear for confirmation from actresses.
  • Comparison. In advertising it is necessary to avoid false and unsubstantiated claims about competitors, their products or services. If the producers of goods and trying to convince potential customers to buy only those arguments that the goods B, produced by a competitor, is of the worst quality and, fast infrared, it really has to prove it. At least, “in advertising can do without mentioning the name of a competitor, and the names of its brand, a bright and figuratively (using the word beautiful and artistic techniques), emphasizing the dignity of goods”.

It should be added that the most striking example of comparison in the advertisement is currently ongoing campaign to prepare for the U.S. presidential election. If the elections take as a type of political advertising (and, in principle, it is because the incumbent President George W. Bush, in fact, advertises his current policy, stressing all his dignity and persuading consumers in the face of future voters to choose a concrete person, while as some candidates run their courses of reforms and exalt the dignity of heir methods of governing the country), the methods of comparison are the most effective.

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According to the well-known leading announcer of CNN, Larry King, “the campaign in the USA is more like gambling. But if opponents are ethically earlier hinted at gaps in the political program of each other, and it resembled a situation close to the cars head-on collision on a highway, in the current campaign for presidential elections occurred obvious drama – machines faced rage, and many victims…”

  • Advertising bait. Advertising should not shift the attention of buyers to another commodity.
  • Statements about prices. Advertising should avoid statements on prices, which are false or misleading, as well as applications for savings without the proof of its reality.
  • The taste and decency. Advertising should avoid statements, illustrations, allusions and subtexts that are contrary to good taste and an insult to the position of public decency.
  • The guarantees and warnings. This is the completeness of the information, notifying customers about the basic conditions and restrictions, either the source or place for a more detailed consultation for them prior to purchase.

Advertisers in practice, face with the fact that these rules of etiquette in advertising may give the presentation only on general principles. When talking about the profitability of the business, tough game with a competitor or hold positions in the market, ethical factors dissolve in the netherworld. Companies are trying to enter the market with aggressive and sexual advertising, sometimes using double standards(Kirkpatrick, 2007).

All of these examples lead us to consider questions of taste, attitudes, traditions and advertising aimed at children, disputed items and acting on the subconscious.

We all have very different perceptions of taste, especially given that the general guidelines of good taste in advertising almost non-existent, and create their very difficult. Aversion may lead to different causes, such as sexual allusions, nudity body and violence.

One of the problems of taste can be goods. Naturally claim adults, seeing that children’s movies interrupted ad units promoting the pads. Means for lifting potency for men beat an absolute record, especially their advertising on the radio. And the promotion of hygiene found in any means of communication anytime, anywhere, but advertisers still can recommend drawing attention to professional journals and related programs for women or men.

For the irrepressible use of sex in advertising is often criticized in the fashion industry. Advertising fashionable and modern clothing and perfume permeated by images of naked men and women who flaunt in the house or outdoors.

Regarding stereotypes, they are usually associated with the submission of certain groups in the form of lasting stamp, which lost their individuality. The issue of stereotypes is also related to whether advertising social values or is their mirror. If the advertisement has the ability to shape values and attitudes to life, the advertisers need to think about how stereotype has a particular category of the population and how advertising and images on them (the stereotypes) are imposed. If you consider that advertising reflects the society in which it was born and which aims, then the advertiser should feel even more responsibility for the absolutely accurate picture of a particular society of people (Kirkpatrick, 2007).

Talking about the main victim of stereotypes, it should be noted racial and ethnic minorities (in the view of African-Americans, advertising portrays them in unflattering characteristic of form and the game advertising almost never use images of heroes of African-American-style – from 2 to 6 % In print advertising and about 13% of the television), elderly citizens, residents of different regions or countries.

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In the case of countries, population susceptibility to advertising and the characteristics of reaching international markets with advertising, it is possible to talk long and much. But questions of ethical considerations are also bright and varied. They begin with an examination of the advertiser local laws on advertising, permits and restrictions that are associated with the ethical standards to which we spoke earlier and more deeply in connection with the local customs.

Since 1980, in the press of Saudi Arabia it is prohibited to place advertisements depicting women. In Libya not to publish advertisements with the words in any language other than Arabic, even if the inscriptions represent the brand names of products or elements of trademarks. In Italy, it is not recommended three-used symbols of the national flag in Brazil – to portray national emblem, or religious scenes. In Indonesia, is considered offensive to display advertising pigs. In India – cows and monkeys. Also in India it is not allowed to put in the same advertising texts which were written in two languages – the local and English. In many parts of Finland, on the other hand, it is allowed a bilingual advertising – in Finnish and Swedish.

At the present stage of development of society, with a well-known criteria and ethical advertising, with an increase in the number of public and legal organizations, trying to control the advertisement and its contents, back edge of decency in dealing with a huge mass of viewers, readers, listeners and passers – was very simple. That is, viewers need a more primitive, landing specific advertising, which will be shown and explained everything, even if it passes the border point.


Ferrell O. C. , Fraedrich John , Ferrell, Business Ethics, South-Western College Pub; 7 edition (2006).

Kirkpatrick Jerry, Egoism, and Laissez-Faire Capitalism, TLJ Books (2007).

Shaw William H., Business Ethics, Wadsworth Publishing; 6 edition (2007).

Spence Edward, Van Heekeren Brett , Boylan Michael , Advertising Ethics (Basic Ethics in Action) , Prentice Hall (2004).

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