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Are There Ethics in Advertising?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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When it comes to having a moral compass, should AdLand really care about where it points? Is it AdLand's responsibility to herald what is right, moral, honest, and just in the world? 

When we look at the efforts of goodvertising, all can agree that the actions involved are noble. There's no discounting that. But is it a model worth pursuing?

It is an issue worth at least discussing. We are not saying that everyone in AdLand should be a soulless, immoral monster, but in order to prove the tide towards goodvertising as sure, we only think it proper to engage in some of the counter-opinion.

When one thinks of the most economical way of doing things, we are all admonished to leave emotions out of the picture. As avid readers of Freakonomics, we enjoy how Steven Levitt (the economist of the duo) breaks it down for readers. There is no moral code when looking at methods from an economical perspective.

Why, then, is advertising off the table?

If the goal is to persuade the consumer to buy our products, then AdLand is within every legal action to get to the means. "Truth in advertising," then, is not a requirement, but a ploy; a means to an ultimate end.

Altruism would not exist in AdLand. But then again, does it?

The "pain of paying" school of thought suggests that the closer consumers are to the transaction, the less they will spend. Hence, consumers using cash for products will spend less than those using cards.

If goodvertising really exists to help consumers, then Cyber Monday would cease to be supported by those companies that support the "rights of the consumer." Cyber Monday is all about shopping online, taking the consumer almost as far away from the transaction as possible.

But Cyber Monday is an event — and the goal is to attract those who couldn’t stand being caught in the mess of Black Friday, but still have presents and gifts to buy.

AdLand: 1. Moral Compass: 0.

No doubt this post will get heat. This train of thought goes against every "thought leader" out there trying to advocate how much they are NOT like those “traditional” marketers and advertisers.

Again, the point is to discuss if those bright minds pioneering goodness and morality in advertising are doing it in vain. We hope not, but cheering them on while tearing down their work in silence behind them doesn't help either.

If advertising's goal is to move the product from the producer to the consumer, where do ethics come in? Frankly, the consumer has to demand them. People were tired of being lied to, so the government made rules preventing false statements. The rise of ethics in advertising did not come up internally. The role of ethics in advertising is not a matter of doing business, but getting business.

With all that being said, goodvertising may be effective because it could be a novel business move. It makes sense for the bottom line to be an ethical business.

Good businesses with ethical and morally strong advertising get more customers.

Altruistic or not, that is a means to an end many brands would like.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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