Ethical Concerns of Advertising

Theory Question

Assuming someone comes across illegal activities within my organization that directly does not fall under my responsibilities or does not relate to her department, she finds herself in a dilemma. What should she do? Should she blow the whistle or not, and if yes, then what procedure should she take. Ethical concern regarding wrongdoing or unethical practices in organizations can trigger ethical concern among outsiders or employees.

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This is known as whistle blowing. In case of outsiders, this concern can be related to the stakeholders affected due to the misgivings of the organizations. For instance, when a hospital janitor blowing the whistle for unsafe nursing practices and hazardous patient care. In this case, the janitor is not directly responsible or related to the working of the nursing department, and therefore, can shove away his responsibility by not mentioning the incident to the authorities. However, the decision to blow the whistle to divulge the unsafe and unethical practices at the hospital is a moral and ethical duty of the janitor.

In this case, the whistle blowing may be considered as an external action, and he is not directly responsible for the wrongdoings of the hospital. Nevertheless, the irresponsible action of the organization must be brought to forefront to divulge the problems involved in patient care. In this example, the janitor blows the whistle for the well being of the patients who were undergoing maltreatment or inattention and the society as a whole that was suffering due to the irresponsibility of the hospital.

Alternatively, in another case, a customer can blow the whistle on the wrong labor practices of an organization in case the whistle blower is an outsider and she must report the event to the local authorities and file a civil case against the concerned organization. Moreover, if the whistleblower works for the same organization, but in a different department, she must report her concerns to her superiors. If they too are unwilling to pursue the case, she must report the incident to the authorities. The concerns of the whistleblower in this case are the stakeholders who are directly being affected due to the wrongdoings of the organization.

The ethical concerns regarding advertisements arise out of two channels – content and delivery channel. Ethical concern regarding content of advertisement and their affect on the viewers and society has been debated upon from a long time. Below are some unethical issues related to advertisements –

  1. The content of advertisements that may cause ethical issues may be related to falsified statements in advertisements. Usually advertisers are manipulative and deceitful in their content development. Before 1950s, tobacco advertisements promoted health. But advertisers today cannot make any false statement in their advertisements, and in addition, if there are any harmful effects of their products, they have to make consumers aware of it.
  2. Explicit sexual or violent content in advertisements are unethical as this may have adverse psychological effect on children. Such contents are offensive for public viewing. Advertisement of certain products may be considered offensive to certain group of people. For instance, products like female hygiene products, contraceptives, etc.
  3. Deliberate use of controversial content in advertisements may create ethical concern. Many advertisers deliberately utilize the controversial topics in order to catch viewer’s attention as in case of Benetton and its advertisements showing a black and white couple holding an Asian baby. Such advisements may run into controversy with certain traditional group of people.
  4. Usually direct competitors attack each other and make advertisements hurling direct attack. For instance, the Cola Wars in the 1980s between the two soft drink making companies Coca Cola and Pepsi is famous for their personal attacks on one another. These were a series of mutually targeted advertisements. Such targeted advertisement is unethical as they violate the principles of healthy competition. This is also popular in political advertisements wherein, campaigners of one party smear the opposition candidate in a series of negative advertisement campaign.
  5. Usage of direct marketing channels like direct mails or phone calls or telemarketing to the consumers approaching them to buy a product are considered unethical and illegal to a great extent.

Advertisements must be regulated in order to prevent any malpractice in advertising as these have serious social impact today. Further, there must be rules and regulations to draw the line on what is acceptable and what is not. Further appropriateness of the content of advertisements must also be regulated.

Dilemma Questions

Monopoly suppliers or suppliers providing product at low cost and high quality are usually at a position to control the buyers. Organizations should associate with only those suppliers that follow ethical environmental and social norms. As the CEO of the retail organization, I would disassociate with any supplier who do not follow environmental and social regulations. Ethical conduct of any company is more important for the growth of the company. Products sold at lower cost but procured through unethical means as in sweatshop plants of suppliers or violating environmental concerns, would only demean the quality of product sold by the company.

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In this respect, the company would satisfy two of its stakeholders i.e. investors with higher returns and customers due to lower prices. But the other important stakeholders to whom the company is responsible viz. the labors, government, society, non-governmental organizations, etc. would be unhappy due to the company’s dealing with a supplier that flouts ethical practices. Ethical supply chain is an imperative for any organization that deals with suppliers for making finished or unfinished products. There are many instances wherein companies have faced problems from suppliers and had to recall their products due to bad products or is fined due to unethical supply chain practices. The concern over sweatshops and unhealthy labor conditions at the supplier run plants may be a concern for retailers as this directly affects the brand image of the company.

Companies like Nike, Starbucks, etc. have faced issues related to unethical supply chain that had affected the demand of their product in the market (The Economist) and scandals regarding unethical practices by companies had shaken investor relations as in case of Enron in 2002 (Waggoner and Fogarty). In case of retail, recently Primark, a UK based retail company has faced charges of illegal labor practices by its suppliers and has affected the company adversely ( Therefore, I intend to conduct a serious investigation into the environmental safety practices of the supplier and if they fail to meet the environmental standards, I intend to remove them from my supplier list. But before I do this, I will give the suppliers an option to change their production process more environmental friendly and if they come up with similar threat of moving to our competitors, I will tell them that with our adverse recommendation, they will not be able to supply to any retailer.

My decision to do away with the supplier is to maintain the expectations of all our stakeholders, and maintain the overall image of the company. Ethical practices will take the company a longer way with more satisfied investors and customers. I will definitely opt for the second best supplier in my list, if the present supplier chooses not to supply anymore, because this would be an ethical practice, and our supply chain will be clean. Though initially this will imply less profit margins, but if this stand is strategically used to market our products, this will fetch greater demand from ethically conscious customers.

The manufacturing company does not aim to do anything illegal or unethical. However, the company intends to close its plant and I know about the situation, I am bound by the company code of conduct not to divulge confidential information to whom so ever under any circumstances. Therefore, even when I am aware of the situation of the merger, restructuring, and closure of the plant, I am ethically bound to the code of conduct of the company wherein I am not supposed to divulge any information from the meeting to my friend. Even though I know that he will change his decision to purchase a farmland if he was aware of the company decision, I will not give out the information to him. This is so because I am bound to the code of conduct of the company.

Personal Dilemma Question

Internal theft, also know as employee theft, is the illegal and unethical transfer of money or disclosure of confidential information during the course of his tenure with the organization. Internal theft does not include production deviance that in intentional disruption of quality output. It is actually stealing of cash or material objects or information from the company. However, production deviance is usually considered to be a part of internal theft on the argument that it steals the company its optimum output and therefore profit. Given this understanding of employee theft, I realize that this has a serious implication to the performance of the company.

Initially I thought that stealing unauthorized information or avoiding work or stealing material objects was unethical but I never realized that its consequences and cost to the company so high. Now I realize that the cost to the company due to internal theft is very high. In 2006, Boeing faced internal theft with its employees stealing $300,000 (James). Theft of data and confidential information is more common and cause a great legal threat to the company.

Further theft of confidential information regarding suppliers, customers, and business also poses the threat of tarnishing the corporate image. In a way, employees misuse the data stolen from the companies and pose security threat to the companies. After undertaking the course on ethics, I realize the cost that companies incur due to unethical employee conduct. Internal theft is a problem to the companies as they not only lead to loses, but also pose security threat. I feel internal theft is a concern for all companies and employee monitoring to curb this theft is important to maintain the corporate image.

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Works Cited

James, Andrea. Boeing has been stung by internal theft before. 2007. Web. “UK: Primark rocked as supplier is accused of illegal labour.” 2009. Web.

The Economist. “Starbucks v Ethiopia.” 2006. The Economist. Web.

Waggoner, John and Thomas A. Fogarty. “Scandals shred investors’ faith.” 2002. USA Today. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "Ethical Concerns of Advertising." May 15, 2021.


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