The use of ethical advertising is one sure way for companies to show they value the needs of their customers. Including a moral stance within their advertising gives consumers information about what companies they want to support and which ones from whom they'd rather withhold their money. People are eager to make a difference in the world, and using products from ethical companies is one simple way to show they care. While everyone has issues they want to support, it's essential for brands to follow some generally accepted guidelines when approving advertising campaigns.
Issues with Gender Dynamics
While high fashion brands may be the most guilty of producing unethical ads depicting women as objects, the subject still comes up with maddening frequency. The idea that women are people, not props, is even the subject of an ethics-driven advertising campaign itself, #WomenNotObjects. The advertising industry has long been guilty of the objectification of women, but more and more companies are changing their images by treating the women in their ads with an equal amount of representation.
Playing Fast and Loose With the Truth
Truth in advertising can sometimes seem like an oxymoron. Companies want to convince consumers to buy their products, which naturally makes them reluctant to reveal any negative aspects of their brands. The Federal Trade Commission requires that all advertising be truthful and not misleading, yet companies have unethically skirted around the truth in the past with many products such as tobacco products, alcohol and over-the-counter drugs. While companies follow the letter of the law in most cases, some brands still use questionable ethics and skirt major issues by emphasizing certain facts about their products while downplaying others.
Promoting Social Equality
Social equality in advertising has come into play in recent years, notably in a cereal advertisement that featured a mixed-race couple. While the outcry against this progressive move by specific segments of the population was vocal, more companies are showing families out of the traditional advertising norm now. Mixed-race couples, gay couples with families and even lesbians looking for love on dating sites are treated as a regular part of society instead of as fringe groups, perhaps in an attempt to more closely mirror a company's customer base or simply to appeal to ethical-minded consumers.
Health Claims and Benefits
From vitamins to alcoholic beverages, a wide variety of advertised products affect consumers' health. Companies have a moral, ethical and legal obligation to have solid proof of any health claims they make for their product in any advertising campaign. From contact lenses to weight loss products, manufacturers must produce studies that prove any claims they make or risk severe penalties from the Federal Trade Commission and backlash from consumers are displeased when companies make unethical claims.
Victoria Bailey has owned and operated businesses for 25 years, including an award-winning gourmet restaurant and a rare bookstore. She spent time as a corporate training manager in the third-largest restaurant chain in its niche, but her first love will always be small and independent businesses. Bailey has written for USAToday, Coldwell Banker, and various restaurant magazines, and is the ghostwriter for a nationally-known food safety training guru.