Direct Marketing from an ethical point of view

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In Sweden and Norway, all advertising aimed at children is prohibited, and in France, a child may not appear as the spokesperson in a commercial. In Holland, advertisements for sweets must include a toothbrush at the bottom of the ad to remind children to brush their teeth after eating sweets.

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Many advertisements and marketing tactics fall into a regulatory gray area, where the advertisement is technically legal but still manages to offend some of the population. For example, one Danish advertisement featured an image of the Pope wearing a particular brand of sneakers, which offended many Catholics. In Italy, the fashion company Benetton shocked the nation by using an advertisement in which a priest is seen kissing a nun. In cases like these, it is not possible to make the advertisements illegal, but advertising industry associations feel it is necessary nonetheless to police the market for objectionable advertisements.

Our chapter-ending case study will deal with the ethical dilemma faced by executives at an advertising consultancy that is considering accepting an account for a global brand that manufactures skin-whitening products. The CEO of our company will call upon us to consider and debate the pros and cons of developing a US advertising campaign for Fair and Lovely, an Indian brand.

Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice

In the United States, this product is demanded primarily by immigrants from South Asian countries, a large and growing demographic. Many people feel that advertisements for such products contain racist appeals, since they are implicitly based on promoting the superiority of white skin. Is it ethical to market and promote such a product? Why or why not? Let us first consider some background to allow us to answer these questions. Principles of Marketing Ethics As stated earlier, every country has a basic framework of advertising law.

Many types of advertisement are simply prohibited by law. However, with respect to advertisements that are legal but morally questionable or otherwise objectionable , the advertising sector polices itself by applying self-regulatory codes of marketing and advertising ethics.

This means that the advertising industry sets up its own committees to police questionable advertisements.


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Virtually every country has at least one advertising industry trade association with a self-regulatory panel or committee that reviews consumer complaints. After examining the advertisement in question, the panel decides whether or not to ask the advertiser to remove the advertisement; although advertisers are not legally obliged to follow the decisions of such committees, they usually do.

The self-regulatory panels base their decisions on ethical principles contained in codes of advertising ethics. The ICC Codes are based on the core principles of legality, decency, honesty, and truthfulness in all marketing communications.

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No communication should be such as to impair public confidence in marketing. Marketing communications should be so framed as not to abuse the trust of consumers or exploit their lack of experience or knowledge. Marketing communications should respect human dignity and should not incite or condone any form of discrimination, including that based upon race, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, or sexual orientation.

Marketing communications should not without justifiable reason play on fear or exploit misfortune or suffering. Marketing communications should not appear to condone or incite violent, unlawful, or antisocial behavior. Marketing communications should not play on superstition. Figure 6. As we review the history of advertising, we will observe that certain ads and campaigns were previously considered acceptable, and even popular, but today would generally be regarded as objectionable in clear violation of one or more of the principles outlined above. Such cases can help illustrate the ongoing evolution of community standards in marketing ethics.

Consider the vintage ad for Schlitz beer in Figure 6. In its time, such an advertisement was probably considered by many to represent light-hearted humor, but today it would be considered offensive by many viewers. The unstated implication is that men are breadwinners while women are weepy and emotional homemakers. By contemporary standards, the Schlitz ad is overtly sexist. While it might seem that such advertisements are relics of the past, controversial discriminatory appeals and references continue to appear in the media. As a further example, consider the advertisement for the Mountain Dew soft-drink in Figure 6.

Mountain Dew had run a successful series of edgy commercials targeted at Internet viewers and users of social media an increasingly popular tactic. For one of these commercials, Mountain Dew hired hip-hop artist Tyler the Creator to create and produce the advertisement. In the ad in question, the goat is driving a car and is pulled over and arrested by a policeman. In flashback, we see the goat attacking a woman to wrench away her bottle of Mountain Dew, leaving the woman bloodied and wounded.

In the next scene, the woman tries to identify her assailant from a police line-up that features the goat and four black men. Drinking steadily from a bottle of Mountain Dew, the policeman prods the woman to make a choice. To no avail, PepsiCo had pointed out that Tyler was African-American and that the four black men featured in the lineup were actually his close friends. Apparently, the irony intended by Tyler was meant to mock racism and discriminatory police practices.


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However, as many other advertisers had learned before, humor is a two-edged sword in advertising. It can attract attention, but it can also be misunderstood and cause offense. The advertisement in Figure 6. Would any parent think it appropriate to have his or her infant shave himself with a razor? Of course not, but clearly that was not the intent of the advertiser. The ad is attempting to be humorous by employing an absurd image, a baby shaving itself.

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The ad is also trying to make the point that the new Gillette safety razor is so safe that even a baby could use it without harm. While it is not possible that a baby would be influenced by an advertisement, it is not inconceivable that a small child of five or six years of age might be encouraged by this advertisement to play with a razor: The baby seems to be having such fun, and the small child might have seen his or her father shaving. As stated above, there are products that are sold legally but that are considered to have such a high potential for harm or abuse such that their advertising has been banned or regulated.

Let us consider just two such product areas: cigarettes and alcoholic beverages. Concerned with medical research that revealed the health hazards of smoking, the US and European governments began to regulate tobacco advertising in the s. The print ad in Figure 6. In the United States , marketing to children is closely controlled. Federal regulations place limits on the types of marketing that can be directed to children, and marketing activities are monitored by the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission , consumer and parental groups, and the broadcast networks.

These guidelines provide clear direction to marketers. The United States is a society of ever-increasing diversity. Markets are broken into segments in which people share some similar characteristics. Ethical issues arise when marketing tactics are designed specifically to exploit or manipulate a minority market segment. Offensive practices may take the form of negative or stereotypical representations of minorities, associating the consumption of harmful or questionable products with a particular minority segment, and demeaning portrayals of a race or group.

Ethical questions may also arise when high-pressure selling is directed at a group, when higher prices are charged for products sold to minorities, or even when stores provide poorer service in neighborhoods with a high population of minority customers.

Self Regulation of Direct Marketing

Such practices will likely result in a bad public image and lost sales for the marketer. Unlike the legal protections in place to protect children from harmful practices, there have been few efforts to protect minority customers. When targeting minorities, firms must evaluate whether the targeted population is susceptible to appeals because of their minority status.

The firm must assess marketing efforts to determine whether ethical behavior would cause them to change their marketing practices. As society changes, so do the images of and roles assumed by people, regardless of race, sex, or occupation. Women have been portrayed in a variety of ways over the years. When marketers present those images as overly conventional, formulaic, or oversimplified, people may view them as stereotypical and offensive. Examples of demeaning stereotypes include those in which women are presented as less intelligent, submissive to or obsessed with men, unable to assume leadership roles or make decisions, or skimpily dressed in order to appeal to the sexual interests of males.

Harmful stereotypes include those portraying women as obsessed with their appearance or conforming to some ideal of size, weight, or beauty. When images are considered demeaning or harmful, they will work to the detriment of the organization. Advertisements, in particular, should be evaluated to be sure that the images projected are not offensive. Because marketing decisions often require specialized knowledge, ethical issues are often more complicated than those faced in personal life — and effective decision making requires consistency.

Because each business situation is different, and not all decisions are simple, many organizations have embraced ethical codes of conduct and rules of professional ethics to guide managers and employees. However, sometimes self-regulation proves insufficient to protect the interest of customers, organizations, or society.

At that point, pressures for regulation and enactment of legislation to protect the interests of all parties in the exchange process will likely occur. American Marketing Association Code of Ethics New York : American Marketing Association. Berman, Barry, and Evans, Joel R. Retail Management: A Strategic Approach.

Bone, Paula F. Ferrell, O. Jones, Thomas M. Koehn, Daryl , January Kotler, Philip, and Armstrong, Gary Principles of Marketing 11th ed. Murphy, Patrick E. Rieck, Dean , October 1. Rose, Gregory M. Russell, J. Thomas, King, Karen W. Ronald Kleppner's Advertising Procedure 16th ed. Self-Regulatory Guidelines for Children's Advertising. Sirgy, M. Principles of this practice include:. The introduction of the statement reads in summary that values are the representation of the collective idea of desirable and morally correct conduct.

And that the values outlined in the document serve as the standard by which individuals measure their own actions and those of others including marketers. These values facilitate best practices when transacting business with the public and all involved. The Canadian Marketing Association also has a code of ethics and standards, which is a self-regulatory guideline for marketers. Though marketers are responsible for their marketing content, members of the CMA must abide the code.

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The principles of this code include:. Companies are aware that consumers are savvy and opinionated. So with this in mind, firms should create an ethically sound marketing plan and integrate it into all aspects of their marketing mix. While ethics and social responsibility are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a difference between the two terms.

Ethics tends to focus on the individual or marketing group decision, while social responsibility takes into consideration the total effect of marketing practices on society. Next, marketers should forecast the long-term effects of the decisions that pertain to those changes.

Bearing in mind that a company cannot satisfy the needs of an entire society, it best serves marketers to focus their most costly efforts on their target market, while being aware of the values of society as a whole. Five simple steps every marketer can take to create a sustainable socially responsible market plan are:.

Social conscious marketing addresses the shortcomings of traditional marketing practices and follows the philosophy of mindfulness and responsibility. This philosophy states according to Chron.

Social Responsibility & Ethics in Marketing

Below is the list of main aspects socially responsible marketing practice rely on. This socially responsible practice teaches that companies should base policies and operations on a consumer perspective. As an example, an over crowded website with lots of ads dumped onto it will be easily spotted if the marketers were to practice this method. Improving products and services in innovative manner improves the experience for users.

And improving marketing strategies, polices, and brand personality, on an ongoing basis will position your company as an innovative experience to be repeated and passed on. A company that produces valuable products and focuses on offering the customer great pricing, excellent experiences and great customer service will not have to resort to pushy sales tactics and gimmicks. Apple brand is famous for having people happily wait in line overnight to be first to own an upgraded product. A clearly defined corporate mission will help companies be clear about their plans, goals, and practices.

By putting the good of the community and associates over profit, companies will indeed see an increase in the number of consumers willing to pay premium prices for their products. Unlike traditional marketing focus, which was cost reduction and profit increase, socially responsible marketers are more focused on providing goods and services consumers want, gaining feedback for improvement and giving back to the communities that helped them become who they are.