School: Lee Kong Chian School of Business
Ethics of Women Advertising in America
This paper will identify and discuss the three most prevalent ethical issues with relation to women advertising in America and their impacts on the society. The three ethical issues will be the constant presentations of women as sex objects in advertisements, the continuous gender stereotyping of women being associated with weaker roles in advertisements and the tendency by advertisers to promote a beauty standard that is unnatural and also of an unattainable ideal to most women. In addition, general ethical issues of advertising such as deception and irrational persuasion will be reviewed. The paper will also evaluate women advertising in America with the Utilitarian and Kantian model, analyze the current advertising guidelines, law and standards and also provide recommendations to tackle the ethical issues of women advertising in America. At the end of the paper, women advertising in Singapore will also be briefly reviewed. Introduction
Back in summer 2007, Dolce & Gabbana, a very well known company in the fashion industry, released a provocative and controversial advertisement to introduce its new line of clothing to the public. The advertisement itself depicted a woman in a submissive prone position being held down by a man with a group of men surrounding and looking on. According to the company, the advertisement was never intended to be controversial as it was only meant to represent an erotic game. However, when the advertisement was released, it was not very well received as several women’s group felt that it was “glorifying” gang rape and promoting violence against women. Eventually, due to under immense pressure from the public, Dolce and Gabbana had to withdraw their advertisement campaign. The example mentioned is a clear reflection of the recent trend that is happening in the American advertising industry. In recent times, advertisements in America often portray women in a negative light such as by sexualizing and victimizing them. Though it might be true that in recent decades, advertisers have sought to portray women’s to be much more influential in the corporate setting, such as the advertisement by Phoenix Companies which showed a group of women in business attire and a message that stated “more women are making more money in more ways than ever before”. However, there are still a growing number of ethical issues that have to be addressed on how women should be properly portrayed in advertisements. Advertisement can be defined as, “ a sponsored informational public notice appearing in any of the print communications media that is designed to appeal to a mass audience in order to persuade, inform, promote, motivate, or otherwise modify behaviour toward a favourable pattern of purchasing, supporting, or approving a particular product, service, idea, or organization”. It is everywhere and comes in many different forms such as through television, radio, magazines, newspapers, handbills, posters, billboards, direct mail and the Internet. Advertising is also a mega industry which generated US$161 billion for America in 2009 and supported 18.2 million of the 126.7 million jobs in 1997. With the ever increasing level of media exposure, advertising will definitely be even more prevalent in people’s daily lives. To illustrate the growing pervasiveness of advertisement in America, research has shown that an average person living in the city will get to see up to 5000 advertisements a day. Furthermore, according to Jean Kilbourne: “Advertisers like to tell parents that they can always turn off the TV to protect their kids from any of the negative impact of advertising. This is likely telling us that we can protect our children from air pollution by making sure that they never breathe. Advertising is our environment. We swim in it as fish swim in water. We cannot escape it…advertising’s messages...