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The Ethical Problems of Modern Advertising

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            This book is about the role of ethics in the field of modern advertising.  It tackled problems which involve things which the advertiser owes the public.  It also discussed about how the consumer looked at the ethics of advertising and how to promote and maintain ethical standards of advertising.

The book defined business ethics as the standard that views every ethical practices and ideologies, ethical problems that may arise and how to deal with them, and engagement to certain duties and responsibilities, certainly all in the business context.

The book tackled the ethics as a necessity in every industry.  And advertising, being part of the industry, must look about and take concern of it.

What is an advertisement?

An advertisement is any form of presentation of which the advertiser invites the consumer to patronage the product.

Persuasion is the primary goal of an advertisement.  Advertisers need to convince the consumers to buy their product or patronage their service.

Because of the competition involved in the business industry, advertisements need to be catchy in every other way to get more patronage from the consumers than your rival entrepreneur.

Because of the tight competition, the advertisers do every other way to produce advertisements that will promote their items.  This is the reason why advertisements nowadays were said to be not that trust-worthy.

Advertisements may affect the consumers in so much ways.  Advertisers were accused to be dream-sellers, mind manipulators, and devil whisperer in their way of presenting such advertisements to persuade consumers.

Advertisers are dream-sellers.  They are trying to sell dreams that a normal citizen could have always wanted.  They sell false hopes that would be just enough for every little consumers who just want improvement in their lives.  Imagine how beauty products were advertised and how consumers will realize that they had just spent money, because they never experienced improvements, for nothing.

Advertisers are mind manipulators.  They are manipulating every mind of the consumers to want a thing that they do not really need at all.  Imagine how they persuade consumers rushing to buy items that they really do not need at all.  Advertisers are not that different from a computer programmer who creates a virus and earns a lot of money in dispatching his creation.  Advertisers create beliefs and use these beliefs to control the consumers.  Just like in deodorant advertisements.  The deodorant promises that you will have the confidence if you will use it.  But do you even thought about that the confidence you have is not just because you used the product but instead partly affected by the belief that the advertisement planted in your mind.

The advertisers are devil whisperers.  Imagine how advertisers swim to our desires for the products that may harm us.  Why do cigarette advertisements do not say “smoking can cause cancer so you must think twice before taking cigarettes”?  That’s because for obvious reason, no one will patronage their product.  Why do we still drink alcoholic beverages when we will be hilariously sick afterwards?  That’s because advertisements had shown how much happiness you would experience while drinking.

I really agree that those were the things that advertisers do in order to persuade consumers to spend for their products.  It is unfortunate to say that these ways of advertising poisons the minds of consumers.  Now we should think and talk about the ethical standards for advertising.

What must an advertisement should possess and should not possess?

An honest and decent advertisement is a good one.  But aside from being truthful, an advertisement should be legal.

Advertisers should know that competition is part of the business to come up with a sense of social obligation.  They should not exploit any consumer at all.

The advertisement should also be decent.  Prevailing standards of decency should not be offended.  Coarse statement, dialogue, or visual presentation must never be allowed.

Advertisements should be clear.  Vague and ambiguous statement may mislead the consumers.

Advertisements should not have price claims that may mislead consumers.  Advertisers should prevent claims in saving without a proof.

Advertisements should never show discrimination in any form.  They should not also play on fear and superstition.

The advertisements should not show presentations of which safety and health is disregarded.

There are lot things to consider before making an advertisement.  Making advertisements follow responsibilities.  The advertisers must prioritize the consumers’ sake regarding ethical issues, not their concern for competition.

In the end, I found the book magnificent in engaging with the problems regarding the modern advertising.   It clearly stated the things that every advertiser must deal before making such advertisements.  I believe that this book may help in promoting the ethical standards and the proper methods of advertising.  This may bring back the credibility of every other advertisements shown by the media.


William A. Vawter Foundation on Business Ethics.  (1978). The Ethical Problems of Modern Advertising.  New York: Arno Press.


de George, R. T. (1999). Business Ethics. Prentice Hall.

Cavanagh, G. F.  (1988). Ethical Dilemmas in the Modern Corporation. Prentice Hall.

Rothman, H. and Scott, M.  (2004). Companies with a Conscience. Denver, CO: Myers Templeton.

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