Ethics of Advertising in a new Ad age Ethics of Advertising in a new Ad age
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As an advertising graduate, I happened to be discouraged by many of my friends, relatives, and colleagues concerning the ethical implications of my degree.

Most of them thought it was probably wasteful of three years spend at the college, some even suggested that I should go back to college for an MBA that I can overlook my advertising degree—stereotypes are everywhere!

Immediately after graduating, I was very hungry for a job. Luckily after a few months, I received a call from a prospect, and I was invited to interview for an entry Marketing role at one of the reputable law firms in the city.

While I was interviewed, I could smell a doubt from one of the interviewers, not about my performance but it came after I responded to her that I’m an Advertising graduate.

Considering the ethical implications between Advertising and Law practices, I couldn’t blame the interviewer for her doubtful expression but a huge debate arose when she asked how relevant my advertising degree is to the Marketing.

I believe for any seriously Marketer it’s a cardinal sin if you fail to associate between advertising and marketing. But I wasn’t surprised by the interviewer's failure to associate my advertising degree with marketing, it’s a common misunderstanding that I often come across, even from my family and friends whom most of them are well-educated.

I graduated as honors Public relations and Advertising student to one of the finest universities within the country. Funny thing is, Public relations professionals are also victims of oppression when the subject of professional ethics crops-up.

I would love to get this matter straight forward, if you’re so confused about why you should use advertising as one of your Public relations, marketing, or promotional strategies within your organization, aren’t you surprised by the countless broadcasted radio’s and TV’s Ads run by religious organizations?

I bet you don’t blame a number of religious organizations in the country for throwing a number of their targeted ads to a range of media houses just to get their message delivered to their audience.

Recently, I came across a powerful ad run by a certain religious organization in the country. The message calls for peaceful election and tolerant politics, is there anything unethical about that?

Then are we in a position to judge the evils of Advertising despite the fact of its usage by a number of religious houses, Insurance brokers, education Institutions, Government Agencies, Multinational organizations, NGOs just to get their message to their targeted audience?

For many who accept the economic inevitability of advertising, its forms and styles provide particular sources of irritation. Pop-up ads and email spam are a continuing irritation for many internet users; unwanted junk direct advertising mail annoys millions of householders daily.

I’m not an exception to that!

I happened to be lectured by one of the finest Scholars within the field of Ethics in Tanzania, Dr. Ayub Rioba. He was very fond of the saying “nothing kills a bad product/service than a good advertising” if you carefully analyze the statement, you will realize advertising just like any product/service: when abused no one will be safe from it.

Then I would love to dedicate this section to whomever thought or still thinking maybe advertising is manipulation of thoughts, some argue that it corrupts cultural life with its insistent, hectoring presence cajole us to buy ever greater quantities of goods and services.

You may be right about that, but, isn’t sell what the decision-makers expect when they invest their company’s fortunes in marketing departments?

Advertising is regarded by many as inherently deceitful. Yet considering the tenaciousness with which corporations pursue profits, remarkably few ads tell literal untruths.

Then today I will tell you the truth which most Ant-Advertising groups, consumers, and professional societies advocating advertising as a non-credible profession knew nothing about or they simply been ignoring the facts.

It’s no wonder even advertising professor David Helm exaggerated when he said: “Between the stickered bananas and the ads over the urinals and the ones on the floor of the supermarkets, we’re exposed to 3,000 commercial messages a day. That’s one every 15 seconds, assuming we sleep for 8 hours, and I’d guess right now there’s someone figuring out how to get us while our eyes are closed.”


Like medicine, finance, law, engineering, banking, and many other fields, advertising also has its own ethics; which most people are not aware of.

1. Truth. Advertising shall reveal the truth, and shall reveal significant facts, the omission of which would mislead the public.

2. Substantiation. Advertising claims shall be substantiated by evidence in possession of the advertiser and the advertising agency prior to making such claims.

3. Comparisons. Advertising shall refrain from making false, misleading, or unsubstantiated statements or claims about a competitor or his products or service.

4. Bait advertising. Advertising shall not offer products or services for sale unless such an offer constitutes a bona fide effort to sell the advertised products or services and is not a device to switch consumers to other goods or services, usually higher priced.

5. Guarantees and warranties. Advertising of guarantees and warranties shall be explicit, with sufficient information to apprise consumers of their principal terms and limitations or, when space or time restrictions preclude such disclosures, the advertisement shall clearly reveal where the full text of the guarantee or warranty can be examined before purchase.

6. Price claims. Advertising shall avoid price claims that are false or misleading or savings claims that do not offer provable savings.

7. Testimonials. Advertising containing testimonials shall be limited to those of competent witnesses who are reflecting a real and honest opinion or experience.

8. Taste and decency. Advertising shall be free of statements, illustrations, or implications that are offensive to good taste or public decency.

Reflecting on the above principles, are we in a position to judge the ethical implications or relevance of advertising in marketing?

Well, let me know your thought.

Ethics of Advertising section was written with great help from the book “Principles of Marketing” by Philip Kotler & Garry Armstrong.

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David Andy
Written by

David Andy

I'm a Marketing and Communication specialist who's at the beck and call in solving, and contributing to organizational and societal issues. My expertise ranging from PR, Marketing, Copywriting, Social Media management, to a broad range of Marketing and communication discpline. Hi there I'm Andy Dave

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