Module 10 – Ethics of Advertising
Ethics of Advertising
The Law- Cases and Principles
What should be prohibited?
Fraud and Deception
o Fraud – understood as an intention falsehood
Done for the purpose of making a profit
o Types of Fraud
Would the average consumer misunderstand this ad as presented?
Is the ad being constructed in such a way to be misunderstood?
Is this being done for profit?
What kinds of things fall under these categories of fraud and deception?
o Product Guarantees
No intention to carry through on durability and quality guarantees
o Money back Promises
Experts or use of quotes to sell products
Rules of legitimate contest can be complicated and are often
contested by the average consumer (when it’s unclear it results in a
lot of litigation).
There are legal limits for length of sales – a sale cannot last for
more than 1/3 of a year
Closing sale ha to be a closing sale
Irwin Toy Decision (1989)
o Important: it starts out in a promising way for advertising
o The freedom of speech guaranteed in the charter applies not only to
political expression, but also to advertising, except when it comes to
advertising for children
Law views children as irrational
Deemed to be more susceptible and less discriminating to their
Uniquely influenced by advertising
Entitled to more protection from the tools that advertisers and
marketers are allowed to use on adults
o What kind of speech should still be okay for kids?
o Are there certain ways of advertising to children that you clearly think are
o What things are illegal to advertise to children?
Cigarettes and alcohol
Provincial Advertising Councils
o Self-regulation on the part of the advertising industry
o Act as ombudspersons who
Receive complaints from public
If complaints has merit, they take it up with advertiser
E.g. Beer commercial – Bavaria
Women strips and shows bum with thong – lots of
complaints about it and now that scene is deleted from the
Tobacco Occupies a Unique Spot in Canadian Advertising Law
o Legal to advertise
o Age restrictions
o Warning labels – regulations by government for tobacco advertising
o Tobacco companies no loner able to sponsor sporting events
Government trying to protect vulnerable audience watching the
Is this government intrusiveness?
What if it affects the amount of resources needed to run
o Cultural events also targeted, but cultural industry used resource argument
Canadian government made an exception
o Two discrimination arguments
Campaign to Market infant formula in Third World Countries in the 1970s and
o Nestle advertised explicitly that the infant formula was better than breast
milk for infants
o Used iconography to suggest that breast feeding was primitive
Modern mothers use formula
o Even though they could not get doctors to endorse their claims, they place
people in white jackets with doctor paraphernalia in their ads
To people in a mostly illiterate culture, the capability to make that
distinction is not readily there
o Blatant form of anti-factual claim
o Misleading use of imagery
o Assumption on the part of Nestle marketers that consumer would have
safe drinkable water
o Poverty Issue
Expensive by developing world standards
Mother would dilute it to make it last
Increasing infant’s intake of dirty water
o Example of ethically controversial advertising
Because political ads are considered political speech, the courts are reluctant to
get involved in what is aid in political advertising. Unless…
o Factual error which requires correction
o Violation of chartered right
o E.g. 1993 – Kim Campbell vs. John Chretien
Ad of his face with – lots of wrinkles and lip twitch, etc – not a
very attractive picture with the sub line:
Is this the man you want to represent Canada on the world stage?
It backfired because it was cruel to pick on a facial disability that
Jean could not help
o E.g 1964 – Lyndon Johnson vs. Barry Goldwater
Barry was conservation in 1964 standards
In a pro Johnson ad they had him saying something very extreme
and then zoomed in on his face and in onto his eye and then turned
that into a nuclear explosion
Point of the ad – negative: this man is so radical, would you
trust him with a nuclear bomb?
Advertising comes under critical evaluation in Many Ways: 2nd Reading Chapter
The AIDS Crisis: Unethical Marketing Leads to Negligent Homicide.
o The failure to advertise
Because the condom company did not aggressively advertise to the
gay community in 1980s, they’re complicit in the spread of AIDS
in that community
Such companies should be seen as guilty of negligent homicide
o Why is that questionable?
o Why weren’t these companies aggressively marketing condoms to the gay
They didn’t want their brand associated with homosexuality
o Author is at pains to show size of homosexual market
Size of gay community claimed by author is contested - Kinsey
Alfred Kinsey and his wife were pioneers in the research of sexual
One finding of this report: Estimate 10% of male population is