Ethics of Advertising


In a recent article of The Ethicist in the NYTimes (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/23/magazine/laptop-prop.html?ref=theethicist&_r=0 ) a question was raised about the ethics of laptops being positioned in front of television newscasters if they are there to convey the impression of being up-to-the-minute (but not for actual use). It’s an interesting example of artifactual communication being used to influence credibility.
            A second part of the question concerned the ethics of displaying the computer company logo. Is this advertising (product placement), the writer asked, ethical for a news show? In the answer to this question Chuck Klosterman, the ethicist, says that the display of a logo or the mention of a particular designer’s name does not constitute advertisement if there is no payment and if the person has no intention of advertising. This, it seems to me, is true from only one point of view, that of the sender. The sender—the wearer of the designer’s clothes or the laptop user—may not think advertising and so one can say from that point of view that there is no advertising. But, the receiver is being influenced; to the receiver, the network user’s computer logo is an advertisement and may well influence buying behavior. This, it also seems, is one of the reasons so many designers put their name in clear view. Isn't this a distinction worth making?



Ernest Freeman said...

In the book “Ethics in Communication” by Johannesen, Valde, and Whedbee, a man named B.J. Diggs can lend us some into this dilemma. Diggs says, “The receiver or persuadee can share in the blame for unethical persuasion. Being gullible, too open –minded, or being too closed-minded, can allow the success of unethical persuasion.” (Johannesen, Valde, & Whedbee, 2008) I believe what Diggs is trying to say here is that if the receiver of the message is gullible enough to think that is advertising then they are partly to blame for the unethical act. Let’s be honest with ourselves. The news reporter has to have that equipment to do their job just the same as anyone else needs that equipment to do their job if it is required. For example, I carry a Toshiba laptop for work. I’m not advertising for them. I’m required to have it. I am no more advertising for Toshiba as the next guy is if he is carrying an Ipad. If a person makes a decision to buy a Toshiba laptop because he seen me using it, that decision is his and has nothing to do with me. Now, if Toshiba is paying me to advertise for them and I am actively pushing their product that is a different story.
Works Cited
Johannesen, R. L., Valde, K. S., & Whedbee, K. E. (2008). Ethics in Human Communication. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.

Laura Henning said...


you made some excellent points in your blog about ethical advertising, I find it interesting that PRSA code of ethics encourages its members to follow their rules because they use the word encourage. To me this is something that should not only be encouraged, but enforced as well because many PR companies claim to be ethical when they really are not. I found every one of your points very true and straight to forward, which is why I always wonder why some industries seem to have so much trouble following ethical guidelines. According to the authors of Ethics in Human Communication (2008) "Today public relations encompasses not only the transmission of information to the public but also the advocacy of corporate positions on public issues. Public relations is included among a number of standard management functions typical in organizations. Public attitudes and issues that might positively or negatively impact the organization's plans or operations are anticipated, analyzed, and interpreted to management." (p.171) I thought that your blog related to this very well, and I look forward to reading more of your thoughts and ideas on ethical advertising.

Laura Henning

Undergraduate Student

Drury University

Johannesen, R.L., Valde, K.S., Whedbee, K.E., (2008) Ethics in Human Communication, (6th Ed.) Long Grove, Ill. Waveland Press