Essay on The Effect of Ethics in Advertising on Consumers

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The sun is shining and there are palm trees in the distance. A vast beach stretches until the cerulean water washes over the shore. A man is sitting in a beach chair, sipping a beer, while being fanned by multiple woman in string bikinis. The faint sound of crashing waves is in the background. He looks at the camera, and says, “Life is cool.” Then the logo of a popular brand of beer appears on the screen. This television ad for a popular beer is the perfect example of advertising puffery. It exaggerates what will really happen if you drink their brand of beer (AdContexual). It is highly unlikely you’ll attract beautiful woman just by drinking their brand, unless you’re Johnny Depp, of course. A good advertisement creates artificial needs for the viewer (Kilboune). You would probably have the same chance of attracting beautiful woman by drinking any other brand of beer, and most people know this. They also know that most advertisements “stretch the truth“, and everything is not always what it seems (AdContexual). Most people understand that a certain shampoo won’t make them look like the models in the commercial (AdContexual). But at what point does stretching the truth, become unethical? Advertisements are designed to break through the “tuning out process”. They make them flashy, humorous, emotional, anything to get through to the viewer (Kilboune). The ethics in advertising does not follow clear moral standards.
Ethics in advertising depends solely on your beliefs. For instance, if you believe that consumers are rational, self-aware, and skeptical, then you won’t find anything unethical about an ad saying that “Red Bull gives you wings.“ Criticisms range from claiming a sugar-coated cereal is part of a nutritious breakfast, to ...

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Clay, Rebecca A. "Advertising to Children: Is It Ethical?" American Psychology Association. Sept. 2000.

Drumwright, MInette E. Caseplace. 2005.

Haas, Anna. "Television and Alcohol Ads Bombarding Teens Continue to Rise." The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth. 2008.

Kilboune, Jean. "Jesus is a Brand of Jeans." New Internationalist.

National Institute on Media and the Family. Ed. National Institute on Media and the Family.

"Promoting a Future Without Tobacco: Tobacco Advertising." Tobacco Free Kids.

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