The Economic, Social, and Regulatory Aspects of Advertising
TO IDENTIFY AND EXPLAIN THE ECONOMIC, SOCIAL, ETHICAL, AND
LEGAL ISSUES ADVERTISERS MUST CONSIDER. The basic economic
principles that guided the evolution of advertising also have social and legal effects. When they are violated, social issues arise and the government may take corrective measures. Society determines what is offensive, excessive, and irresponsible; government bodies determine what is deceptive and unfair. To be
law-abiding, ethical, and socially responsible, as well as economically effective, advertisers must understand these issues. After studying this chapter, you will be able to: * * *
Classify the two main types of social criticisms of advertising. Employ an economic model to discuss advertising’s effect on society. Explain the difference between social responsibility and ethics in advertising.
* * *
Understand how governments regulate advertising here and abroad. Discuss recent court rulings that affect advertisers’ freedom of speech. Describe how federal agencies regulate advertising to protect both consumers and competitors.
Define the roles state and local governments play in advertising regulation. Discuss the activities of nongovernment organizations in fighting fraudulent and deceptive advertising.
In their constant quest to attract consumers and associate products with “cool” or luxurious and hedonistic lifestyles, some advertisers have consistently pushed the boundaries of what is ethically and socially acceptable. American advertising has always embraced erotic suggestiveness while usually staying clear of full nudity and explicit sexuality. Campaigns that blur that distinction often arouse controversy and even protest. For two decades, the most notorious purveyor of sensual “cool” was
Calvin Klein—beginning in the late 1970s with the “nothing comes between me and my Calvin’s” campaign featuring Brooke Shields and culminating in 1998’s “kiddie-porn” controversy. Klein’s racy advertisements provoked the ire of conservative groups but earned him the respect of edgier critics who viewed his campaigns as artistically ironic. In the end, the controversies benefited Klein, as the media firestorm provided free publicity for his brand name and underscored the sophisticated “cool” of the campaigns. Since the millennium, however, the mantle of “most controversial advertiser” has passed
from Klein to trendy teen retailer Abercrombie and Fitch (A&F). A subsidiary of The Limited since
1988, A&F flirted with controversy in the early 1990s, when a black-and-white print ad, ostensibly featuring a father and son on a boating outing, was misinterpreted as a gay couple. Capitalizing on the angle, A&F hired iconic 1980s fashion photographer Bruce Weber, who had been responsible for some of the steamier Calvin Klein images, as the principal photographer for the A&F Quarterly, a hybrid catalog and lifestyle magazine, known as a “magalog.” According to Quarterly contributor Sean
Collins, the magalog was intended as an “outside-looking-in fantasy version of college life” that parodied “the idealized life of leisure, while at the same time celebrating that ideal for its very unattainability.” The magazine originally featured pseudo-adult photographs of hunky, underdressed young adult men, but as it became increasingly popular in campus Greek culture, it began featuring under- and undressed women as well, in increasingly suggestive sexual situations. The publication’s articles, sexually explicit but often tongue-in-cheek, underscored this “sex and games” attitude. Although opposition always existed toward Weber’s erotic photographs, the explicit articles bred controversy, particularly as it was hard to see what they had to do with the clothing. A feature article
on alcohol consumption, called “Drinking 101,” caught the attention of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the magazine’s 1999 issue...
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