Advertising Ethics: a Contextual Response Based on Classical Ethical Theory

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Topics: Ethics
Advertising Ethics: A Contextual Response Based on Classical Ethical Theory

Cornelius B. Pratt E. LincolnJames

ABSTRACT. F. P. Bishop argues that the ethical standard for advertising practitioners nmst be utilitarian. Indeed, the utilitarian theory of ethics in decision-making has traditionally been the preference of U.S. advertisingpractitioners. This article, therefore, argues that the U.S. advertising industry's de-emphasisof &ontological ethics is a reason for its continuing struggle with unfavorable public perceptions of its ethics - and credibility. The perceptions of four scenarios on advertisingethics and the analyses of the openended responses of 174 members of the American Advertising Federation to those scenarios suggest that advertising practitioners need a stricter adherence to deontological ethics than is indicated in this study.

Advertising, a traditionally high-profile management function since World War II, perpetuates a paradox. On the one hand, it is commonly touted by business and the academy as a major economic, social and competitive force in post-world war economies. On the other hand, it is, invariably, a bull's-eye for public wrath. Cowton (1992), Crisp (1987), and Litttechild (1982), for example, present evidence on consumer suspicion and antipathy toward and investor concerns about advertising

Cornelius B. Pratt is Associate Professor in the Department of Advertising, at Michigan State University. His research has been published in suchjournals as the Journal of Media Planning,

Journal of Business Ethics, Public Relations Review, Public RelationsJournal, Public Relations Quarterly, and Journalism Quarterly.
E. LincolnJames is Associate Professorand Assistant Chairperson in tke Department of Advertising at Michigan State University. His work has appeared in several scholarlyjournals, including the

International Journal of Advertising,Journal of Advertising, Journal of Direct Marketing, Journal of Media Planning, and

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