What Are the Different Types of Ethical Issues in Advertising?

by Victoria Bailey; Updated June 26, 2018
Businesswoman working on whiteboard at brick wall in office

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.

Gender Equality

While high fashion brands may be the most guilty of producing ads containing 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 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.

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 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 skirt major issues by emphasizing certain facts about their products while downplaying others.

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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 in 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.

Health

From vitamins to alcoholic beverages, a wide variety of advertised products affect consumers' health. Companies have a moral 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.

About the Author

Working in sunny Florida, Anne Baley has been writing professionally since 2009. Her home and lifestyle articles have been seen on Coldwell Banker and Gardening Know How. Baley has published a series of books teaching how to live a frugal life with style and panache.

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