Ethics in Advertisement of United Colors of Benetton

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Ethics in advertisement of United Colors of Benetton

Are Benetton´s advertisements ethical or not?


The United Colors of Benetton strategy3
Three separate cycles of building Benetton’s value4

Utilitarianism approach6

Deontological approach7




As the students of MME (Economics and Management studies), we have chosen the topic, which involves our study program, which is the Marketing and Consumer behavior. Our topic is focused on the advertisement and the practices of United Colors of Benetton Company. Their way of marketing seems to be directed “another way” and it has been discussed several times whether their strategy is ethical or not in the past. First we would like to highlight the basics of the United colors of Benetton company and then all the classical kinds of moral reasoning theories will be described (Utilitarianism, Deontology) applied on the United Colors of Benetton advertising strategy. Virtue ethics is not going to be discussed as it is not a suitable approach for this case. Utilitarian and deontological approaches are going to serve as a mean for understanding whether it would be wise for Benetton to change its strategy or stick to its traditional way of marketing and ignore the voice of public opinion.

The United Colors of Benetton strategy

United Colors of Benetton is an Italian company that thanks to its unusual way of advertising is dicussed all over the world. It is one of a few companies that does not insist on showing its products in the advertisements. Instead of the product controversial motives are used presenting different kinds of social issues (eg. rasism, terrorism, social tabus). "The Benetton United Colors campaign illustrates how modern advertising has been radicalized into an explicitly political forum." (Tinic, 1997) Since United Colors of Benetton has started with this advertising strategy many critical reactions have occured. As a result of this negative publicity many Benetton´s adverts were banned in several countries. The criticized aspect is mostly the fact that Benetton is an organization trying to reach the profit and high level of awareness among consumers. Therefore its goal is similar to most of other businesses. However, Benetton´s representatives are trying to persuade the public about their concern in pointing at most dicussed issues in the world and increase general awareness about these problems. United Colors of Benetton uses shocking motives, in other words fear appeal, in its adverts. Fear appeal is used in eg. stop smoking, prevention against AIDS and drugs advertisements. Scary and eye-catching motives are used in the adverts to show what harmful consequences could a certain activity cause. Some of Benetton´s adverts also use fear appeal but the problem is that in regular commercials where fear appeal is presented, possible solution or prevention against the problem is presented in the message (eg. prevention against AIDS - use condoms). Benetton has been trying to call attention to actual social issues but they never provide any other information than the company’s trademark. "Beyond complaints about individual Benetton advertisements, there appears to be an undercurrent of unease caused by the fact that social problems have been linked to the sale of designer clothing." (Tinic, 1997)

Therefore our paper is going to dicuss whether the advertisements of United Colors of Benetton are ethical or not based on the theoretical framework related to moral reasoning.

The company´s philosophy is based on the conviction of Mr. Benetton who says that “ communication should no be commissioned from outside the company, but it should be conceived from within its heart.”

The United Colors of Benetton (UCB) emphasizes that the communication should be no longer connected with the consumer but with the individual. “By entering the universe of values, the brand frees the...
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