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Advertising Vs. Ethics Essay

1529 words - 6 pages

Can advertisements, one of the most visibly and financially impactful aspects of the public’s daily life, ever truly be ethical? Advertising cannot fully withstand morally because it is deceptively based with misleading tactics, is harmful to children, and is a possible reversal of movements toward a more “green” environment. The definition of false advertising, along with the deceptions used to implement it, supplement the basis of this theory. Statistics regarding the nation’s youths and concerns for the environment are further influences in the argument of right versus wrong and good versus bad in relation to advertising and ethics. Supporters of advertising may beg to differ, but completely ethical advertisements are unattainable.
Deceptive advertising, also known as false advertising, is the implementation of misleading information in advertisements. With the capability of persuading people into commercial transactions that otherwise would not have occurred, advertising must be regulated by governments around the world so as not to be deceptive, false, or misleading. For example, in 1914 the United States created the Federal Trade Commission as an antitrust weapon. Consumers have the right to know what they are purchasing, and that all necessary information is provided. Furthermore, the Federal Trade Commission’s mandate was extended to include protecting customers against deceptive advertising and fraudulent commercial practices. Originally the Federal Trade Commission used the reasonable-consumer standard, meaning, “it would prohibit only advertising claims that would deceiving reasonable people” (Shaw and Barry). Begging the question of who is reasonable and who is not? Then the 1937 Federal Trade Commission vs. Standard Education, which dealt with the supposed deceptive and misleading practices of an encyclopedia company, transitioned the law towards a more gullible-consumer standard. This “modified” gullible-consumer standard “protects consumers from ads that mislead significant numbers of people, whether those people acted reasonably or not” (Shaw and Barry). Nevertheless, consumers are still deceived, whether legally or illegally but unenforceable, by advertisers each and everyday.
The daily deceptions achieved by advertisers are executed with certain, misleading tricks. An advertiser’s only objective is to persuade consumers to buy certain goods and services, leading to a tendency to misrepresent and/or even lie. One deception that the Federal Trade Commission charges against is ambiguous advertisements, which are purposefully presented in a way that can be understood in two or more ways. For example, when Sara Lee promoted its Classic Light desserts, customers inferred this to mean lower calories treats. After investigation, however, it was released that the term “light” referred to the texture of the desserts and not their calorie count. A second trickery involves the concealment of facts, so as to contain...

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