Truth and Deception in Advertising

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ruth And Deception In Advertising

There is much to be discussed about what the role advertising has in today’s society. Everywhere you look, and go there is usually some sort of advertising present. Whether watching TV, walking around a mall, or reading a magazine, people are bombarded with advertising. So it brings into question, what kind of role should advertising have, and what kind of ethics should merchants of products go by. There are many different opinions on the ethics merchants should have. Some people believe they should have a tell all type of approach when making a sale, while others on the other end believe that merchants should do whatever it takes to make the sale, even if it means lying. Here I have presented the two opposite ends of the spectrum. I believe my own view on the situation lies somewhere in similarity with what Tibor R. Machan has presented in his paper “Advertising: The Whole or Only Some of the Truth?” My views on the role of advertising and merchants lie somewhere with Machan’s idea of the merchant ethic, meaning that the buyer is trying to make the sale, however the seller needs to be honest as a business person and may not mislead or deceive, but they do not need to tell all. Caveat Emptor must play a role, meaning the buyer must beware, and a salesman does not have to obligation to tell all. I feel that a business person/merchant/advertiser does not need to straight up tell for instance the shortcomings or complaints about their product, however if the buyer asks about them then they need to be honest and tell. I feel this ethic with a twist is fitting to what I believe is best. The twist is that I believe that merchants should follow the merchant ethic until their own personal morals come about and interfere with this ethic. If one really cannot make a sale because their own morals tell them that it is not right (maybe the product is completely wrong to a customer who has no clue whatsoever about what he/she is buying for example) then they shouldn’t make the sale. However if advertisers follow the merchant ethic, and morals do not interfere then it should be followed. Therefore I believe the best approach to advertising ethics is a merchant ethic approach with a twist on individual’s morals.

In class there was an example brought up about how the merchant ethic may not be morally right. It was the example of the old lady needing a new roof on her house, and calling the first roofing company she see’s in the phone book, however this company has a more expensive kind of roof than what she needs, but she would not know. So it was asked if it would be right to hold the truth from the old lady as it is her role according to Caveat Emptor, to beware of this, or should the company continue on to make a profit. I believe that this is where my twist in regards to morality would come into play. If the owner, or worker selling the roof finds it morally wrong to sell the roof to the old lady, then he/she shouldn’t. However if he/she does not feel morally wrong selling the roof to the old lady, then it is a case of Caveat Emptor, where the buyer is to beware, and as long as the seller does not mislead or is untruthful with any questions asked, then he/she should sell the roof.

One idea that Machan opposes is Suppressio Veri, meaning the suppression of the truth. This idea is different from Caveat Emptor in the fact that the seller is completely suppressing the truth. Even if the questions are asked, the right answer is not given. The buyer may try to be gaining more information in order to make a more rational choice on buying a product or not, but the truth is not given. Machan is quoted in his paper on the topic of Suppressio Veri as saying “Merchants must see themselves as having equal standing to customers and as having legitimate motives for furthering their own interests”. He is saying that if the buyer is aware and asks the questions, it is wrong for the merchant to give the wrong...
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