I. Introduction (p. 149)

A. Advertisers emphasize the role of advertising as a business or marketing tool.

  1. Advertising is a major player in the global economy, with $525 billion being spent worldwide; $200 million in the U.S. (Wall Street Journal).
  2. Even in a so-called post-television age, 53 brands decided to spend $5 million for a 30 second commercial during Super Bowl 50 in February 2016.
  3. For advertising to work, it has to fit into the culture and as a means of social communication (Daniel Pope).

B. Historically, we can look at the simple mirror/shaper debate in terms of advertising:

  1. Advocates promote advertising as a mirror, a social passive force (i.e., it does not create reality).
  2. Critics claim advertising is a shaper, a selective reinforcer of social messages.

C. Ethical dilemmas can be found in the complex web of advertising, its processes, practices, practitioners, creations, and audiences. Here are the grounding ideologies:

  1. We live in a democratic political system: we describe democracy in terms of freedom, fairness, individualism and choice.
  2. We live in a capitalist economic system: Actions are decided by the “best interests” of companies and individual.
  3. We live in a media culture: Media are irrevocably intertwined with contemporary culture. Advertising is culture. It’s hard to separate the two.
  4. We have a commercial media system: profit-motivated, advertising-supported and highly consolidated.
  5. We live in a consumer culture: People are preoccupied with things and with the idea of acquiring things.
  6. Our media culture is image-based: Images allow persuasive, and sometimes preposterous, messages to circumvent the audience’s critical thinking skills.
  7. Technology strengthens and amplifies these ideological threads: it increases the ways in which consumers can interact with a brand. It blurs the lines in the relationship between advertising and media.

D. Advertisers have made advertising messages identical to every other message. The definition of advertising is fluid.

E. Two related dynamics in advertising, inherent in our work and our culture:

  1. Advertising’s intrusion into all public and private spaces.
  2. The commodification of aspects of culture never meant to be commodities.

II. The Commercialization of Everyday Life (Ch. 6, p. 157)

A. Advertising is the financial foundation that supports most media, and a considerable portion of media is advertising (see numbers from Wall Street Journal above).

B. Technology is both funded by media and cluttered by advertising. Advertising infiltrates the physical world as well, from dry cleaning bags to soda cans.

C. Boundaries of all kinds seem to disappear as technology moves forward. Social media uses brand engagement and interaction at a level never seen before.

D. Technology allows advertisers to reach consumers in new ways but also track, analyze and store our activity. The advertising industry is a major player in ‘big data’ and ‘analytics.’

E. Advertisers can use new forms of technology and tactics to continue to put their products in unpredictable but noteworthy places.

F. Consumers express discomfort and even anger at the commercialization of the world, but at the same time they willingly engage with new advertising media.

G. Commodification infiltrates every aspect of life. Branding is everywhere, from education to political candidates and causes to egg donors.

H. The membrane between private and public communication has dissolved, turning reality into a commodity.

I. The cases in this chapter focus on these dimensions of commercialization in our modern media culture.

  1. All Is Not What It Seems: Pondering Guerrilla Marketing (Case 23): Exploring the ethical dimensions of how and where marketing messages are presented. Is it a good idea? Is it ethical?
  2. DTC Advertising: Prescription Drugs as Consumer Products? (Case 24): Legislation has made it legal for pharmaceutical companies to advertise on television. Do the benefits of this utilitarian approach outweigh the risks? The HIV drug Truvada is used as the example.
  3. Cause-Related Marketing: Are You Buying It? (Case 25): Marketers are quick to label products with a cause, using the concept of CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility. Is cause-related marketing a boon to charities, or just another way companies can make a buck?
  4. “Like” As Social Currency: Empowerment of Exploitation? (Case 26): Online tracking or behavioral targeting is the norm, logging purchases, personal data, and website visits and preferences. What information should be considered “fair game,” and how might the information collected be used in ethical ways? How much are we willing to ‘pay’ for information customized to us?

III. Advertising in an Image-Based Culture (Ch. 7, p. 181)

A. No longer do people discuss media and culture as separate concepts—media culture reflects that advertising both defines and is defined by culture.

B. The role of advertising in our society has changed from educating consumers about product features to changing consumer attitudes about product benefits. Informational has become transformational.

C. The products have become less important than the brand, the image with which the product is associated.

D. This chapter’s cases introduce some of the ethical dilemmas regarding the marketplace of images.

  1. Altering Images: Attaining the Unattainable? (Case 27): Examines the portrayal of women and beauty in media. When even former supermodels are attacking the modeling industry’s ideals of fashionable beauty, is it time to take notice?
  2. Stereotyping Disability (Case 28): Examines how advertisers can better represent disabled people without sensationalizing their condition. Is there such a thing as ethical stereotyping? Are the representations fair
  3. Spectacle for Social Change: Celebration or Co-Optation? (Case 29): Looks at the website FCKH8 and produced the ‘Potty-Mouth Princesses’ videos. Is this a campaign for justice or a way to sell T-shirts? Is shock an ethical way to promote a cause?
  4. Anti-Obesity: A Question of Images (Case 30): Examines the obesity epidemic among American children and how we cover it. How can we responsibly use the images of overweight children to bring awareness to the issue? Can we? Should we?

IV. The Media Are Commercial (Ch. 8, p. 202)

A. Under a capitalist economy, media are structured so that their primary goal is profit, which can threaten the press’ role in democracy.press’ role in democracy.

B. Audiences are commodities. Media sell “markets” of audiences to advertisers who shop for a specific demographic.

C. Media modify and shape their content to attract the ideal advertising audience.

D. Some common ethical charges against advertising include:

  1. Advertising may exercise control over non-editorial content, or may attempt to do so (advertisers could influence media content explicitly through product placement and implicitly through silencing of stories against certain advertised products).
  2. Advertising influences the media choices available, that is, it ‘creates’ the media landscape.

E. The cases in this chapter examine the influence of commercialism on media.

  1. Media Gatekeepers (Case 31): Media legally can reject ads for any reason, which makes them gatekeepers of media access. Some groups are denied access because of the controversial nature of their ads. Is the veil of ignorance the answer to such dilemmas? Can we ethically reject ads inconsistent with our persona; beliefs?
  2. Native Advertising: Advertising and Editorial Content (Case 32): The next two cases explore what is commonly referred to as product placement and native advertising. How do we navigate the wall between advertising and editorial and protect journalistic integrity? Are we at an ethical impasse?
  3. Welcome to Madison and Vine (Case 33): As advertisers attempt to reach a sophisticated audience, product placement, or brand integration as it has come to be known, is becoming more and more commonplace. Is it appropriate for advertisers to be given some creative control over programming content in return for their advertising dollars? Is product placement inherently manipulative or deceptive, or do audience members recognize it as advertising?
  4. Ad Blocking: A Perfect Storm (Case 34): An individualized case concerning ad blocking software, which is prevalent and popular. Should a loyalty to our profession override our desire to remove ads from our internet life?

V. Advertising’s Professional Culture (Ch. 9, p. 220)

A. Advertising practitioners have sought to remove the industry from the realm of hucksters to the status of professionals.

B. Early clubs and associations, trade journals, academic programs and codes of ethics have legitimized the field.

C. Some suggest that advertising will never become a profession because its solutions are creative do not follow prescribed processes.

D. Despite the debate, advertising’s professional culture is at question. Advertisers must examine what we value, how we go about our work, how we think about ourselves, and how others think about us.

E. The cases in this chapter examine professionalism and client service and each tell us something about advertising’s professional culture.

  1. “. . . Perhaps the Absence of a Code of Ethics”? (Case 35): The Role of Codes in Ethics. Practitioners must balance their personal moral compass with the AAAA standards and their own agencies’ codes. How can practitioners find adequate guidance?
  2. Branding: Making the Same Different, Again (Case 36): Exploring the advertising of premium bottled-water. Is the industry building a brand image implying differences where there are none?
  3. Niche Markets, Niche Media (Case 37): Target marketing is so much of what we do that we rarely give it a thought. Should we? Are we building stereotypes to be economically viable? Focuses on the Hispanic and Gay market.
  4. Ethical Vision: What does it Mean to Serve Clients Well? (Case 38): Ethics in the everyday where Jeff approaches his work as an account planner on the Carl’s Jr. /Hardee’s account. How does he respond to their desire for more sexualized commercials involving women?
  5. The Risky Client: Yes or No? (Case 39): Ethics in the everyday where Seth considers a new client: E-cigarettes. How do we handle the ethics of a risky product?