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Ethics of Advertising Essay

Microsoft Band Advertising

Microsoft has presented its smartwatch (called ‘Microsoft Band) in 2014 after the Apple Watch hit the market. To promote the product, various types of advertisement were used (TV commercials, videos on YouTube, slides and photographs on the official website of the product, etc.). In this paper, the Microsoft Band TV advertisement will be examined as demonstrating support of the ethical approach to advertising.

Advertising per se may be seen by the customers as manipulation, but it has its advantages too. It offers the consumers a choice; it transmits some moral beliefs or values (Brunello 2011). The Microsoft Band ad is a good example because it can benefit young aspiring scientists who want to enroll to college or university. It also stresses (although more subtly) the importance of successful graduation and education in general.

Moreover, this advertisement also aims to show the parents how important their support can be for their child. At last, the ad presents a female person of color, which is also important for the elimination of racism. There are two moral principles used in this ad: respect for the dignity of each human being and respect for social responsibilities (Davis 2011). The following ethical concepts were used in this advertising: family values, human rights (to education), gender empowerment.

This advertisement is ethical because it does not deceive about the possible harm of the product; moreover, the commercial does not claim anything that could be seen as manipulation. Deliberate lies and misleading in advertising are considered as unethical (Percy & Rosenbaum-Elliott 2016). In this commercial, Microsoft reminds the consumers to appreciate and be proud of his or her achievements.

The ethical approach to business decision making should not be disregarded because it directly influences the image of the business in the eyes of the public and the media. Correct ethical decisions are as important for successful business as marketing or accounting (Ferrell & Fraedrich 2015). One has to understand current and past social and cultural issues to meet ethical business decisions. Decision making in business influences everyone: employees, stakeholders, investors, and customers (Ferrell & Fraedrich 2015). Ethical decision making is difficult because it involves various personalities with different opinions: if one supports the decision, the other will find it unethical or insulting.

I believe that the public would label this commercial as ‘inspiring’ or ’empowering’; the consumers would like the idea that one should take care of the family, or choose a healthy lifestyle, or aim to learn more.

Marlboro Advertising

Questionable advertising strategies can also lead to a scandal or public boycott that is extremely harmful to the business. As an example of the advertising with poor ethics the Marlboro advertising of tobacco products (2014) will be used. This commercial was criticized because of its focus on adolescents and young adults; it promoted smoking to minors (Boseley 2014). This ad will definitely harm the children and minors, because the billboards of Marlboro imply that smoking is as ‘cool’ or ‘trendy’ as being in a relationship, traveling, visiting concerts, etc.

Although the company stated that the target audience of the ad is young adults, it is clear that minors will also be interested in not being a ‘maybe’ and will try to boost their self-confidence with smoking (Boseley 2014). The ad might benefit the company, but it will harm thousands of minors or even young adults who had never smoked before but were manipulated by the commercial. In this advertisement, the concept of utilitarianism was used.

According to it, any means are good if the utility was maximized by them (Hargrave & Livingstone 2011). This is not the first example of unethical tobacco advertising, but it is not clear why such companies continue to make the same mistake and advertise tobacco to children? Of course, profit is the primary aim of all ads, but such unethical approach has lead to company losses and bans of the ads (Boseley 2014). This breach of ethics has also impaired Marlboro’s image.

There are several violations detected in the advertisement. First, as it was already mentioned above, it exploits adolescents and their vulnerability: teenagers are exploring their personality, and any manipulation could be harmful to it. Second, it lures young adults into smoking. Third, it promotes smoking as a cool activity and deceives the consumers about its potential harm.

Poor or unethical decision making can destroy the company’s reputation. Unethical advertising may include exaggeration (‘if you smoke Marlboro you are going to experience adventures’) and exploiting children’s credulity (‘if you smoke Marlboro others will see you as a cool person’). If Marlboro used the ethical advertisement, it could have avoided all the scandals and discussions in the media. However, Marlboro decided to continue the advertising campaign, but eventually had to face more bans because of this decision (Boseley 2014). Advertising of harmful products is often disapproved by the public, but the unethical approach to it makes such commercials even less trustworthy.

I think the public would consider this ad as ‘potentially harmful’ and ‘deceiving and misleading’. Moreover, it would be perceived as ‘manipulative’, ‘breaching local laws of tobacco advertising’, and ‘foul’.

Reference List

Boseley, S 2014, . Web.

Brunello, A 2011, Ethics in Advertising, Polirom Publishing House, Iaşi.

Davis, J 2011, Advertising research: Theory & practice, Pearson Higher Ed, New York.

Ferrell, C & Fraedrich, J 2015, Business ethics: Ethical decision making & cases, Nelson Education, Toronto.

Hargrave, M & Livingstone, M 2011, Harm and offence in media content: A review of the evidence, Intellect Books, Bristol.

Percy, L & Rosenbaum-Elliott, R 2016, Strategic advertising management, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Ethics of Advertising'. 11 October.

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