According to Durk (2011), ethics is a set of moral principles that governs people’s behaviors or dictate how an activity should be conducted. On the other hand, advertisement is a mode or form of communication between producers, sellers and buyers. Therefore, for advertisement to deliver the expected information to the buyers, then the advertiser must observe a certain code of ethics. In this regard, ethics in advertisement constitutes the set of well-defined principles through which the communication between the seller and the buyer is governed. In the business world, ethics plays a significant role in defining and regulating the marketing strategies employed by manufacturers and sellers.
An ethical advertisement is the one that does not make false or fake claims and is within the limits of decency. However, from the recent past there have been a lot of exaggerations on advertisement with excessive use of puffing. It seems that most advertisers have lost knowledge of advertisement principle and related norms, to understand what is correct and what is wrong to advertise or to include in the advertisement.
For research purposes, this paper will refer to promotion of tobacco products to analyze ethical issues in advertisement.
The tobacco industry has faced many challenges while advertising its products because of the ethical standards that they have to meet. There have been constant bans on tobacco advertisement across the world because smoking is considered to be unethical. The situation for tobacco products is particularly made worse by medical evidence linking smoking to respiratory infections such as cancer (Haustein, 2009). Consequently, tobacco advertisement is attacked from both ethical and medical dimensions. Ethically, it is considered as misleading because it projects macho/desirable images yet it harms one’s health (Durk, 2012). Medically, it is attacked on grounds of not providing sufficient information on its health risks to the smoker. These two views have necessitated the intervention of governments by instituting legal requirements that compel marketers of tobacco products to include warning information about associated health risks on the packages and in media adverts.
Nevertheless, one of the cornerstones in favor of advertisement is that it offers information to consumers about the product that is offered for sale. This argument has been advanced as justification of tobacco advertisement. Adverts are intended to inform consumers about available products. However, the fact that adverts are more aimed at persuading the consumer to buy the product rather than just inform about its availability dismantles this claim.
Classical economist argues that trade or business will be optimized when all parties involved have adequate information about the product. In pursuance of the advertisement idea, cigarette manufacturers have tried to make the consumer aware that however much the product is comfortable when consuming it, it is still harmful to their health. Therefore, apart from the consumer being made aware of the price he is also notified about the side effects of the product. Manufacturers of cigarettes ensure that they also express the comfort associated with smoking, by making their adverts in classic backgrounds (Haustein, 2009). In addition, cigarette being an addictive product, manufacturers knows that once they convince a potential smoker at first instance, he/she is addicted, and there is no need for extra advert on addicts.
Like any other advertisement, cigarette adverts still aim at selling by pleading their case through the strongest, informative, and most persuasive means, entertaining and selling at the same time. It is not possible to persuade consumers by irrational or illogical promises as they can see through ill conceived ideas. Most cigarette manufacturers have understood this fact in the advertisement industry and, therefore, have ensured that despite giving the harmful picture of smoking they also give a picture of comfort and satisfaction in smoking.
To persuade their consumers, cigarette advertisers usually apply two principles that have seen their significant sales in their markets. One of the principles is ensuring that their cigars are of quality and secondly making honest advertisements. Though, everybody knows that smoking is harmful; thus, the objective the adverts are intended to achieve is to instill a sense of pride and distinction in smokers (Marlin, 2002). The adverts are able create a taste in the consumers, assumptions about the product, brand feelings, dreams, hopes, worries, expectations, and cultural beliefs. All these strategies raise mixed reactions toward the product and regarding the ethical values that marketers ought to meet to avoid misleading consumers.
Marketers have a duty to ensure that they don’t cause any harm to consumers as they influence them. It is important to ensure that advertisements are designed and presented in accordance with certain codes of ethics with regards to how they convey their message. The American Marketing Association (AMA) has, therefore, set some rules or ethics to marketers of products like cigarettes. Consequently, our case study advert has observed the principles of creating no harm, fostering trust between the consumer and the producers, and embracing other ethical values that will improve consumer confidence when consuming the product.
Display of how smoking can be harmful to the human body is a role that may significantly affect the sales of the product. However, it is not the case as smokers are able to understand the consequences of smoking and can therefore manage their smoking habits not to be addicted. The trust build by manufactures in expressing the danger of consuming their products has, however, become a booster to their sales. The advert has also avoided deception by giving information that may amount to false statements. The federal trade commission rules against deceptive actions in commerce. It determines that smoking adverts that expose the danger of smoking are within the law (Warner, 2006). In our case study, the indication of the danger of cigarette smoking is a recommendable ethical item of such adverts.
Despite these challenges, however, tobacco marketing has worked miraculously across the world. The tobacco industry has recorded high advertisement costs across the world between 2002 and 2003 (Marlin, 2002). However, this cost will be recovered within a few years because of the high numbers of new smokers in the society. Majority of the new smokers are the youth, who are usually the main target group by cigarette manufacturers. In this industry, it is only costly to capture a new customer, but very cheap to maintain existing consumers. Thus, it still remains that although government different regulations have been implemented to ensure that manufacturers and marketers meet ethical standards, such measures have not prevented the advertisers from achieving their objectives of alluring new smokers.