Friday, January 19, 2007

Morality in Advertising

Anyone who has worked in business organizations learns that the specific challenges thrown up in the marketing area are amongst the most taxing. Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement. Should advertising make the promises it does make? And does it deliver the promise?

The economic case for advertising is fairly clear when it is considered as a necessary component of the competitive marketing system. It draws attention to goods and services which are available and by stimulating purchases it contributes to return of costs, increases market share etc etc etc

There may be a grey area in the distinction between, on the one hand, misrepresentation, or making claims which are false and on the other hand omitting certain facts about the product or being economical with the truth

Exaggerations and unwarranted claims about the efficacy of the product also fall into consideration in assessing the truth factor in advertising, whether those claims have to do with one’s health, or one’s sex-appeal, or one’s social status, or ones general well-being in the society.

Drinking a special brand of Whisky will transport one into a fairyland or harem of delights. The unspoken pre-supposition here of course is that the potential customer will be not only resistant but also sensible and reasonable in assessing the claims for various goods and services and will not take it all absolutely literally.

It is in such areas particularly that regulation and monitoring of advertisements have an important social function by protecting the vulnerable in the society from being exploited.

Another more ethically interesting sphere in which advertising needs to be scrutinized is the area of pressure on individuals to make particular choices

The final and underlying consideration concerning the ethics of advertising is to what extent advertising responds to demand OR on the contrary actually creates demand?

The objective of advertising any goods or services should be:
· To inform the consumers about the goods and services,
· Persuade them to buy the goods and services AND
· Remind them about the goods and services

The most important pre-requisite i.e. remember the 3 As (i) Acquisition, (ii) Allurement & (iii) Advantage.

While advertising, a business house should also keep the environment in mind. When we say environment, we mean Economical elements, Social elements, Ethical elements and regulatory elements.

Morality (It is basically being right or wrong in conduct.) And Ethics (Whether you conform to moral standards?) are synonyms.

There are basically two issues in advertising

(i) Dilemma
(ii) Lapses

Dilemma is the unresolved question. The consumer is in tow minds about the advertised product or service. The advertisement has confused him and hence decision making becomes that much more difficult. E.g. Reliance India Mobile... Actually it is a fixed line phone with Limited mobility, however it is proclaimed as a mobile phone...

Recruitment advertisements by large corporate houses often begin in bold print with words to the effect “We are looking for people with sharp analytical minds. For the right person the sky is the limit” But we are yet to see one announcement which seeks individuals with synthesizing capabilities. Does effectiveness in the long run not require analysis and synthesis?

Lapses are unethical decisions like (1) Advertising unhealthy products (Cigarettes) (2) Advertising to Children (Cola ads—injurious to a child’s health in the long run and (3) Using Puffery in advertising (Free Dental Insurance if you buy Rs. 20 worth tooth paste, In reality there are strings attached!