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Seminar on Advertising Ethics

Posted by abmq39 on September 12, 2008

            The session of New Enhanced Role for Advertising Ethics began at 9:00, and, despite being the first time slot of the day, it was packed. There was standing room only, and I wound up sitting on the floor to the side of the tables in the brand new room in RJI. The panelists were introduced and each gave a short presentation.

            The first panelist to speak was Wally Snyder.  Snyder works at the American Advertising Agency. He spoke on the competitiveness of advertising today, between advertisers themselves and between advertisers and their audience.  The key to advertising is connecting to customers, and it must enhance the company and the product image.

            He defined advertising ethics as truthfulness, fairness, and taste and decency. The major idea he wanted to get across to the audience was “Advertising ethics is not an oxymoron,” even if that’s how many Americans see it.

            After Snyder came Bob Wehling of Proctor and Gamble. His presentation proved that Americans don’t trust advertising with evidence from poll showing ad agencies are less trusted than politicians. Ethics to him were more than just a single action. Corporate ethics are based on advertising ethics and the standards they are held to, and those are based on personal ethics. It takes a truly ethical person to keep a company honest.

            Wehling introduced some questions he has to deal with every day to the crowd to demonstrate the issues that are double sided. Does a good end justify bad means? Is it better to hide the truth and help someone or to be truthful and hurt someone? Should politicians be held to different standards? These questions made everyone think.

            Linda Eatherton presented ethics more from the public relations point of view, and ethical behavior as companies in general. A lot of people choose products and companies based on what she called “egonomics” as opposed to economics: they feel better about themselves for choosing a company that is socially considerate.

            She introduced the three P’s of today’s marketing: price, planet, and premium. People want to be environmentally correct while buying quality products for the best price. Companies these days must have solid reputations. “Reputations build trust,” she says. Her ending questions, leaving the audience wondering, was, “Do ethical ads and policies make a company ethical?”

            Allison Price Arden was the last individual to address the audience. She also showed the results of the poll about professionals trust. She wanted to remind us that companies should get attention for the good things they do, like Access Surf Hawaii and Tap Project. These are public relations dreams come true.

            A lot of companies are doing it right, Arden says. Companies are trying to do the right thing, and the customers are responding. Since 9/11, interest in companies supporting causes has risen nearly 30 percent. This attitude was more uplifting and a nice was to end the session.

           The session ended with a few questions from the audience. I thought the most interesting question involved making companies’ ethic codes public. Even though everyone was in favor of companies following ethic codes, no one was in favor of publicizing them. They explained that rules change so quickly that it’s not safe to release them in case of legal trouble.

           The panel was very knowledgeable and really explained what they did well. It was an interesting session that really expressed how difficult their jobs were. It translates to every industry and every day life as well. Ethics is everywhere and everyone has to make decisions.  

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