Ethics in Marketing: False Advertising
History of Advertising and the Rise of Ethical Implications
For decades, advertisements have been telling us not only what to buy, but also what we shouldn’t be able to live without. The history of advertising can be traced back as far as the Roman Empire, where posters advertising the gladiatorial games would be hung around for all to see. Modern advertising dates back to about 1583 when the first daily newspaper was printed in England under the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The idea of a daily paper spread to Scotland in 1660 after Cromwell’s victories. These papers, however, were more for Cromwell’s soldiers and merely reprints of the English papers. While some advertisements had started popping up in the earliest papers, it wasn’t until advertising became an important function of selling goods that they became more prominent. Advertising didn’t reach the United States until the 18th century when the first advertisement was published in the Boston News Letter.
Modern advertising has changed over the decades. Advertising has become more prominent and reached more people with the invention of the radio and television. Newspapers are also popular; companies try to advertise by placing the ad where it was most likely to be seen by a segment group that would be most likely to be interested in the product. By the time advertising was able to paint the actual picture of the product for the consumer, its main goal was simply to create a need for it. For example, television ads began to target the subconscious and unconscious minds of individuals. Marketers also wanted to create an illusion where they were speaking just to the individual consumer. By doing this, they created more of an intimate relationship with their customers.
Advertisements are an emotional connection between the companies and their consumers. Peter Drucker comments that, “the aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself” (Nantel). This has led companies to do extensive research and raises ethical issues in regard to both business practices and consumer relations. Companies’ goals are to evoke emotions in consumers that lead to the purchase of the product or service advertised. Early television commercials focused on creating the illusion that products were just for those of the elite class. Pictures of movie stars and other famous people were often used. These images gave the product the air of being special and luxurious. If it was good enough for the stars, it was good enough for the ordinary consumer. As advertising developed with what was socially acceptable at the time, different advertising tactics were used. In a post-WWII America, advertisers wanted to shake the feeling of the dull, dreary days of war. At this time, the last thing advertisers wanted to incorporate in their ads was to use the same dull grey colors that was used in previous ads. With the development of the silver screen, advertisers were able to use color to entice consumers to buy their products.
Leo Burnett, a top advertising executive, developed the idea of product characters. He realized that it was difficult for the consumer to identify with the actual product. He decided that characters gave the consumer something to associate with a product or brand name. Marlboro is a famous example of this. When they first came out, Marlboro cigarettes were originally designed and marketed towards women, but sales soon feel flat and Philip Morris decided to completely redesign and reinvent the product. This time they targeted men and used the Marlboro cowboy. The simple change of switching segmentation groups and using advertising that appealed to their target market sent the sales up 3,000%.
As a gender, women have been realized as a more important consumer as history has progresses. In the late sixties and into the seventies women began a social revolution where they...
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