MBA Notes - Ethics and Social Responsibilities in Advertising

Question - Why is ethics and social responsibilities are important in advertising? 


In today's world of cut throat competition every organization is investing heavily in advertising. Advertising is necessary to make a new product popular in the market and to increase the sales of existing brands. Advertising plays an important role in brand building and informing public about available products so that they can make informed choice among different products or brands.

Advertising is a powerful medium of mass communication. As advertising is a form of mass communication and thus just like other popular forms it too have some social responsibilities associated with it. However, the question is whether advertising fulfill  its social responsibilities or not. 

Advertisements are meant for the masses and people relate themselves with this medium. Thus, for understanding its responsibilities towards the public, its positive and the negative aspects needs to understood.

Positive and Negative Aspects of Advertising
As like any other medium of mass communication, advertising also have positive as well as negative aspects. Advertising increases sales, advertising makes the product popular, advertising helps in brand formation, advertising makes the public aware with the available brands or products. Advertising is the largest financial source for mass media. Advertising is sometimes subjected to wide criticism. Many of the advertisements are criticized as deceptive or manipulative. Other criticism focus on the social or environmental impact of advertising, the effect of advertising on our value system, commercial clutter, stereotypes, and offensiveness.

Ethics in Advertising
Ethics means a set of moral principles which govern a person's behaviour or activities. Ethics in advertising means a set of well defined principles which govern the ways of communication taking place between the seller and buyer.

Advertising benefits advertisers in many ways, similarly it makes the public aware with the available brands so that they can make informed choice among the available products or brands. But, some of the advertisement doesn't match the ethical norms of advertising, such ads causes political, cultural, or moral harm to society. Ethical ad is one which is in the limit of decency,  make no false claims, and doesn't  lie.

Nowadays advertisements are highly exaggerated and a lot of puffing is used.  It seams like the main area of interest for advertisers is to increase their sales, gain maximum market share, prove their product best in the market by presenting a well decorated, colourful, and puffed advertisement.

Ethical and Moral principles of Advertising
Advertisers must have sufficient knowledge of ethical norms and principles, so that they can understand and decide what is correct and what is wrong. We can identify several ethical and moral principles that are particularly relevant  to advertising. We are speaking briefly of three as follows:-
  1. Truthfulness in advertising;
  2. The dignity of the human person; and
  3. Social responsibility.

Truthfulness in Advertising
Truth  in advertising promotes a highly efficient, functioning economy by:
  • Discouraging deceptive business practises;
  • Encouraging the provision of accurate and truthful information;
  • Enhancing competition by ensuring a level playing field; and
  • Enabling informed consumer choice.
The Dignity of the Human Person
  • The dignity of human beings should be respected; advertisements should not insult the dignity of human beings;
  • Different cultures and ethnic groups should be presented in advertising as equal with the majority of the population;
  • Special care should be given to weak and vulnerable groups like - children, poor people, or elderly people.
Advertising and Social Responsibility
Advertising has a strong social responsibility, independent of its known commercial responsibility. Advertisers should have a deeper sense of social responsibility and should develop their own set of ethical and social norms taking into consideration the values of their society.
Nowadays it seems like many of the advertisers lack knowledge of ethical norms and principles. They doesn't understand what is right or wrong, and that's by number of misleading and unethical ad is increasing. But, on the other side some advertisers are giving importance to ethical norms and principles. When the ethical norms and  principles are followed, it makes the organization answerable for all its activities, reduces the chances of getting pointed out by critics or any regulatory body, and helps in gaining confidence of the customer and makes them trust organization and its products.

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