The advertising industry operates within strict federal regulations and is monitored by the Federal Trade Commission. Even with truth-in-advertising laws in place, advertisers have significant leeway to violate the ethical standards of a wide range of consumers. Advertisers have to be especially careful to act ethically at all times, taking extra care when advertising to children, advertising potentially harmful products and using psychological tactics to stimulate demand. Having a list of ethical and legal issues at hand when creating advertisements can help you to craft legal, responsible ad messages.
- Truth in Advertising
The Federal Trade Commission Act set forth requirements for truth in advertising and created the FTC to enforce the provisions of the act. The Bureau of Consumer Protection’s Business Bureau notes that advertisements in the U.S. must by truthful, not deceptive and not unfair. Advertisers must also have evidence available to back up claims they make.
The FTC defines deceitful statements as those that are likely to mislead consumers who act reasonably under normal circumstances and that are likely to affect consumers’ purchase decisions. The FTC defines unfair advertisements as those that are likely to cause substantial, unavoidable injury when using a product, unless the injury is outweighed by the provable benefits.
- Advertising to Children
Although the FTC places special emphasis on truth-in-advertising laws when applied to children, the law allows for a great deal of unethical behavior here. Former FTC commissioner Roscoe B. Starek states that children are not likely to understand exaggerated statements or images, citing the example that children may believe a toy helicopter to come fully assembled when in fact assembly is required.
This interpretation of the law completely ignores the unethical ramifications of purely legal advertising, such as building brand loyalty in children before they even understand what a brand is, encouraging children to develop negative self images or getting children hooked on products that can impede social development. The best way to act ethically in this area is to advertise to parents, not children.
- Advertising Harmful Products
Different countries look differently on the advertising of vice products and services, striking a balance between placing personal responsibility on citizens and regulating what citizens are allowed to indulge in. The United States highly regulates some forms of vice, prohibits others and gives still others a free hand. For example, cigarette advertising is only permitted on specific media, excluding television and radio, while alcohol advertising is allowed on all media.
Companies have to take a good look at the true nature of their product lines when deciding whether they are acting ethically as advertisers. Television ads for fast food hamburgers are completely legal and effective at building demand, for example, but doctors in the 21st century are beginning to find links between fast food and a national obesity epidemic. Pharmaceutical ads with lists of side effects, as another example, are often followed 10 years later by attorneys’ ads for class-action lawsuits against the companies for wrongful injury.
- Deception in Advertising
The relation between the buyers and sellers is maintained if the buyers are satisfied with what they saw in advertise and what they got after buying that product. If seller shows a false or deceptive image and an exaggerated image of the product in the advertisement, then the relation between the seller and buyers can’t be healthy. These problems can be overcome if the seller keep their ads clean and displays right image of the product.
- The Subliminal Advertising
Capturing the Minds of the consumers is the main intention of these ads. The ads are made in such a way that the consumers don’t even realizes that the ad has made an impact on their minds and this results in buying the product which they don’t even need. But “All ads don’t impress all consumers at all times”, because majority of consumers buy products on basis of the price and needs.
- Effect on Our Value System
The advertisers use puffing tactics, endorsements from celebrities, and play emotionally, which makes ads so powerful that the consumers like helpless preys buy those products.
These ads make poor people buy products which they can’t afford, people picking up bad habits like smoking and drinking, and buy products just because their favorite actor endorsed that product. This affects in increased the cost of whole society and loss of values of our own selves.
Some ads are so offensive that they are not acceptable by the buyers. For example, the ads of denim jeans showed girls wearing very less clothes and making a sex appeal. These kinds of ads are irrelevant to the actual product. Btu then there is some ads which are educative also and now accepted by people. Earlier ads giving information about birth control pills was considered offensive but now the same ads are considered educative and important.