Ethical Advertising? Does It Exist?

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What is ethical advertising and does it exist?

The primary goal of any business is to make money, grow, and increase their bottom line. To do this, companies engage with the advertising industry to look for creative marketing ways to advertise their service or product to attract consumers, making advertising a critical element in running a business. Advertising is described as an art of persuasion. Since it is solely based on the company’s best interest, the line between ethical and unethical becomes blurry, making it both helpful and harmful. However, it is your social responsibility to ensure lies are not told to your audience in the guise of advertising. Advertising practices, especially digital advertising, applies to pop-ups, pop-under, overlay ads, contextual links, interstitial ads, and advertorials. Unethical ads affect the company’s brand, the advertising company, and sometimes the media companies because unethical ads drive away clients and lead to adverse reactions and feelings from the targeted consumers. 

What is unethical advertising?

Many advertising agencies choose to straddle the line of ethics by staying away from illegal elements while bending the truth which raises multiple ethical concerns. This approach protects them from any legal action but falls under unethical advertising. Clear examples of advertising that is problematic include:

Unlabeled advertorials 

Advertorials are known to be adverts that are made to look like an article to fool the audience. There is an unspoken rule on print and digital advertising on platforms such as social media, that requires clear labeling of any ad that can confuse editorial content. 

Fake dialogue boxes, persistent pop-ups, and persistent pop-unders

Another group of questionable ads includes fake boxes that open in a new window, for example, pop-up ads that appear in a small window on the main browser window or the pop-under that appears behind the main browser window. The trick is that while trying to close the window, the user might click on it, which leads them to the advertiser’s window. Most users dislike these techniques and will often block them.

Prestitial, interstitial ads, and overlays without skip or close buttons

Prestitial or interstitial ads appear before the expected content and are often irritating; however, the inclusion of a “skip ad” button helps users bypass the page. Overlays is a technique used whereby the ads appear over existing content in the same window. They utilize flash movies or animation and are particularly disliked because they cover-up material. 

Principles of ethical advertising

You may be wondering if there is a way to advertise and convince your target audience without lying or stretching the truth? Is there a way to add value through advertising, practice truth in advertising, ensure proper management of personally identifiable data, employ behavioral targeting, and steer clear of data sales of user data? The answer is yes. Ethical marketing is real and can add significant value to your company by matching the right ad with the right product, with the right audience at the right time. However, to achieve this, you need to recognize the principles that govern the creation and distribution of commercial information to consumers. These include:

  1. Consumers place a high value in honesty, and as a service or product provider, you need to build and maintain their trust through high ethical standards. Remember that public relations, news, marketing communication, and advertising share common objectives geared at delivering accurate and ethical service to the consumers.
  2. All marketing communications should exercise the high ethical standards in the creation and distribution of their information, making educating your team professionals on the importance of truthfulness a critical factor to ensure doing the right thing.
  3. Always maintain distinguishing lines between public relations, news, editorial content, entertainment, corporate communications, and advertisements. 
  4. Ensure your advertising agency discloses all material conditions such as receipt of free products or payment and endorsers’ identity, which may affect endorsements on traditional or digital marketing channels. For example, be sure to express if bloggers are stating their independent opinions or are receiving compensation.
  5.  Be sure to approach the consumers based on the nature of service or product being advertised. For example, by matching service or product to a podcast’s content, you bypass the unethical need to monitor or purchase your consumer’s data to gain insight. 
  6. Advertisers should never compromise on consumer’s privacy during advertising. It is your audience’s choice whether to participate in personal information, especially during digital advertising. Media trade and marketing associations run regulatory initiatives that give viewers control over the use or collection of online viewing data. 
  7. Compliance with federal, state, local advertising laws, corporate, and advertising laws are mandatory despite the field of product or service being advertised. The federal trade commission, for example, is in place to prohibit deceptive acts in the advertising industry. 
  8. Online and offline media advertisers should periodically discuss arising ethical issues and be given permission to express them freely. An open environment allows for the expression of both negative and position.

The goal of advertising is to persuade consumers to meet your company’s bottom line. However, while chasing more sales and growth, it is critical to practice ethics during your advertising. There is nothing wrong with highlighting your strengths and promoting your benefits; however, do not lie. Organizations like the FTC detail what falls under deception within the advertising industry to properly guide advertising agencies. If you make a claim about your service or product, make sure you can back it up with irrefutable evidence. Also, be sure to practice transparency and not leave any vital information that may influence your consumers.

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