Has Advertising in the Digital Age Gone Too Far

Has Advertising in the Digital Age Gone Too Far


For years, the bridge between what is legal and what is ethical has clouded the business realm. Although something may not be illegal, business owners and decision makers must ask the question, “Is it ethical?” Ethics is defined by our textbook as “moral principles and values that govern the actions and decisions of an individual or group”. These ethics are also a big component in advertising, evermore so during the digital media age. Many questions can arise when advertising as to how ethical the tactic really is.

One problem when advertising using digital methods is whether or not the ad is untruthful or deceptive. Using advertisements that make the viewer think that something is true when, in reality it isn’t, could be considered unethical. Advertising that is offensive or in bad taste also can be considered unethical. Using sexual appeals has often been considered a grey area in advertising. Most companies would argue that the implementation of sexual appeal has helped sell their products, but the content is really only suited for an adult audience. Commercials with this kind of content have been the center for criticism in some of the more recent Super Bowls.

Another big question in advertising is whether advertisements should be targeted towards children and teens. There are no laws that prohibit tobacco companies, for example, from targeting their ads towards younger people. The law only states that you must be eighteen years or older to purchase these products, but if the tobacco companies start targeting children at a young age, then they will be more susceptible to buying these products in the future.

For the most part, I am not really against any of the advertisements that I see on TV. From time to time, there will be a commercial or ad on twitter that I see and ask myself, “Does that really belong where everyone can view that?” Being a young adult, I feel that my sense of humor is fairly good and I can laugh off some of the more questionable commercials. However, I think that some of the commercials that incorporate the use of sexual appeal and social or cultural consequences should be put where only people who want to view them can do so. Hoping to have children someday, I think that my viewpoint on advertising will change. I most likely will not want my kids to see some of the stuff that I think is funny, until they are the right age.

If I were to start making advertisements, I would make sure that they were as ethical as I could make them before I air them for the public to see. I would not want to offend anyone in anyway, and would avoid using stereotypes and cultural references to the best of my ability. I would understand that everything that goes viral has its own benefits and consequences. People base what they want to buy off of what they see or what peaks their interest. If something bothers them, then you could lose their business. If something bothers a mass group of people, then you could potentially lose your own business. I would try my best to make sure that I would only put out things that would not offend myself and try to put myself in other peoples’ shoes before I place an advertisement.

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