Socio-Economic and Ethical Implications of Advertising – a Perceptual Study

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Socio-Economic and Ethical Implications of Advertising – A Perceptual Study Dr. Raghbir Singh* Sandeep Vij** Abstract Depending upon the public opinion about the social, economic and ethical aspects of advertising, the marketers and the public policy makers should take different stances on how advertising should be treated. The study has analyzed in detail the public response to the issues like: ‘Targeting Children in Advertising’, ‘Use of Sex in Advertisements’, ‘Promotion of Materialism through Advertising’, ‘Use of Comparative Advertising’, ‘Ethics in Advertising’, ‘Use of Celebrities in Advertising’, ‘Economic Effects of Advertising’; and ‘Public Policy on Advertising’. The population for the study comprised a sample of 900 respondents, 100 each from the seven North Indian states (Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttranchal) plus Union Territory of Chandigarh and National Capital Territory of Delhi. Based upon the opinions and beliefs of the public, as revealed by the study, suggestions have been made to the advertisers and the public policy makers. Advertising has played a major role in consumer marketing, and has enabled companies to meet communication and other marketing objectives. Typically, advertising is used to inform, persuade, and remind consumers. It importantly reinforces their attitudes and perceptions. Advertising has been a target of criticism for decades. Advertising has been hailed as a capitalistic virtue, an engine of free market economy, and a promoter of consumer welfare. Its detractors on the other hand accuse it of an array of sins ranging from an economic waste to purveying of harmful products, from sexism to deceit and manipulation, from triviality to intellectual and moral pollution (Mittal, 1994). Advertising is seen by many as a threat to the cultural identity and self realisation of many developing countries: it brings to many people alien ethical values; it may deviate consumer demands in developing countries to areas which can inhibit development priorities; it affects and can often deform ways of life and lifestyles (Mac Bride, 1980). Advertising is considered unethical when it degrades rival’s product or substitute product, gives misguiding information, gives false information, conceals information that vitally affects human life (e.g., side effects of drugs), makes exaggerated claims, is obscene or immoral or is against broad national interest. While comparative advertising may be considered legal and its widespread use may have granted it acceptance, the debate on whether or not it is ethical, still continues. There is no unanimity among advertising professionals and marketing clients regarding such questionable practices. However, all agree to one aspect that while considering the question of unethical practices, the focus must be to safeguard the interest of buyers at the micro level and the society at the macro level as their satisfaction is the key to the marketing success. The criticism has been related not only to its intended effects on society, but also to its unintended effects. Most of the criticism has come from "elite" observers of society. In contrast, the general public has historically viewed advertising in a more positive way. Whereas criticisms of advertising have generally originated from the highest socio-economic classes since the earliest days of the modern marketing era and before, lower and middle class people have historically been more positive toward advertising (Bauer & Greyser, 1968; Fullerton & Nevett, 1986; Steiner, 1976; Zanot, 1984). The extent to which these intellectual criticisms reflect more widely held consumer beliefs and attitudes in India is not well known. Therefore, it is important for advertisers, academicians, researchers and advertising agencies to be concerned about the beliefs and attitudes that consumers have developed about advertising. To understand the Indian public’s viewpoints/opinions,...
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