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Ethics in Advertising

Posted by Daniel Maxson on September 11, 2008

Today I sat in on one of the defining moments of my life and career. Some of the greatest minds in marketing, advertising, and public relations spoke at a discussion of ethics in their industry.

On the panel we had five great leaders in the industry.

William C. Price, Chairman and CEO of Empower MediaMarketing, opened the discussion, introducing the guests and moderating the discussion.

Wallace Snyder, the President of the American Advertising Federation, spoke on the definition of advertising ethics.

Robert Wehling, retired Global Marketing and Government Relations Officer for Proctor & Gamble, spoke on the effect of reputation on marketing and asked some provocative questions for consideration, including, “If you feel something is wrong, but no one is adversely affected, it is okay?”

He also outlined the three tiers of ethics, all of which are important to solid marketing: Personal Ethics, Advertising Ethics, and Corporate Ethics.

Linda Eatherton, Partner and Director of Ketchum, introduced us to the “Age of Egonomics,” where people actually pay more for a product that they believe is ethically better than the competition. This is based on the “Triple Bottom Line” of “People, Planet, and Profit.”

Allison Price Arden, Publisher of Advertising Age, showed us some statistics, including the fact that 27% more people are more likely to switch brands for a cause they believe in since 9/11.

During the discussion, the panel discussed how ethics vary among different age groups as well as across cultural borders, and raised the question of how advertising agencies should handle it.


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