Marketing communications professionals often enough to make decisions based on ethical standards.

The American Marketing Association describes ethics as relating to “moral action, con-duct (sic), motive, and character. It also means professionally right or befitting, conforming to professional standards of conduct” (“Definition of ethics,” 2013, para. 268). The American

  • Advertising Federation has a subdivision called the Institute for Advertising Ethicswhose “fundamental purpose is to Inspire Advertising, Public Relations and Marketing Communications Professionals to Practice the Highest Personal Ethics in the Creation and Dissemination of Commercial Information to Consumers” (AAF, 2013, para. 2).
  • Some of the main decisions marketing indications professionals will have to make in the course of creating the marketing communications plan include targeting, advertising, promotions, and packaging.

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Ethics of Targeting

As we learned in unit two, businesses need to target their audiences so that the right consumers receive the right message.

  • Determining the target market is important to a business to ensure that your marketing and advertising dollars are spent correctly.
  • Budgets are not limitless so companies need to stretch their advertising dollars.
  • They do this by targeting groups of people is most likely to purchase the product.
    • However, is focusing on one group ethical, especially if that group consists of people more vulnerable to advertising messages such as children and teenagers.

Toys and games are the obvious advertisements directed at children, however advertisers have come under fire for pitching junk food to children.

  • The FTC reports that even back in 2006, fast food and beverage makers spent $2.3 billion marketing to children.

The federal government has proposed specific guidelines that while voluntary, would encourage the food industry to carefully consider its advertisements to children.

  • Food and beverage manufacturers would have to create healthier recipes or forgo advertising to children. (Neuman, 2011).
  • More recently, Nickelodeon has been criticized for using its characters and brand to market junk food to children.
  • Urged by various health groups, the company has taken steps to limit the licensing of its characters to foods that are considered healthier. (“Center for Science,” 2012).

Ethics of Advertising

In general, the ethics of advertising has been debated since its creation.

  • Many consider to be deceptive and often contain misleading information. While there are truth in advertising laws and regulations, some criticize the fact that there are ways around this.
  • The Federal Trade Commission enforces the truth in advertising laws amongst all types of media.
    • “When consumers see or hear an advertisement, whether it’s on the Internet, radio or television, or anywhere else, federal law says that ad must be truthful, not misleading, and, when appropriate, backed by scientific evidence” (FTC, n.d., para.1).

However even if the advertising is truthful, is it still manipulative?

The point of advertising is to encourage consumers to make the purchase; often the advertisements target our emotions.

  • The question is if there a way for advertisers to use emotions and at the same time remain ethical.
  • Along the same lines, advertising also focuses on the issues a consumer will face if he or she does not have the company’s product.
  • This plays on the consumer fears and insecurities and may encourage the customer to purchase items that he or she does not need.
  • Where is the line between advertising and encouraging sales and ethics?

Ethics of Promotions

In Unit Seven, we discussed trade promotions and some of the challenges associated with them.

Forward buying or bridge buying happens when manufacturers offer off-invoice pricing and the retailers stock up on the product for use after the promotional period has expired.

Diverting is when the manufacturer restricts a promotion to a certain group or stores or geographic region and the retailer orders additional goods at the promotion price in the area where the deal is being offered and then ships those goods to other stores that are not being targeted.

  • Both of these issues could be seen as unethical.

Ethics in Packaging and Branding

Marketing communicators need to ensure that both packaging and branding of their product follow ethical standards.

Regards to packaging, the item needs correct labeling information and a safe package.

Regards to food the FDA said standards in terms of proper labeling.

  • In addition, the label has to contain graphics that include a true representation of the product.
  • Finally, it is important for the package to be safe, especially regarding medications and child safety features.


Regulatory Considerations in Marketing Communications

Marketing communications, like other businesses, face a variety of regulations both mandatory and voluntary.

  • These regulations range from advertising to labeling.

At the federal level in the United States, government regulation is performed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  In regards to advertising, there are several forms of self-regulation.

Federal Regulatory Agencies

The Federal Trade Commission’s regulatory authority encompasses deceptive advertising, unfair practices, and information accuracy.

  • Within FTC, the Division of Advertising Practices “protects consumers from unfair or deceptive advertising and marketing practices that raise health and safety concerns, as well as those that cause economic injury” (FTC, n.d., para. 1).
  • Their enforcement includes the advertising of dietary supplements and weight loss products, monitoring and creating strategies for enforcement of new advertising techniques and media, supervising the advertising of food to children, maintaining industry practices regarding the marketing of violent movies, music, and electronic games to children, and observing marketing practices in regards to alcohol and tobacco products (FTC, n.d.).

The Division of Advertising Practices also works with state and international officials regarding the enforcement of consumer protection issues and the self-regulation of the advertising and marketing industries.

The FDA is responsible for guidelines and directives in regards to the packaging of food and drug products.

  • Besides an accurate listing of ingredients, many foods now require specific nutritional information on the labels.
  • In addition, the Food and Drug Administration is responsible for labels and advertising of prescription drugs.
  • They are responsible for ensuring the other truthful and that any claims made in the advertisements are supported by scientific facts.

Advertising Self-Regulation

While the FTC and FDA provide federal regulation for the safety of consumers, there are several groups that offer self-regulation of advertising.

Self-regulation offers a complement to the federal standards enacted by the government. The Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (ASRC) is the main body that establishes the policies for advertising self-regulation.

  • According to the ASRC, the organization establishes the policies and procedures for advertising industry self-regulation, including the National Advertising Division (NAD), Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), National Advertising Review Board (NARB), Electronic Retailing Self-RegulationProgram (ERSP) and Online Interest-Based Advertising Accountability Program (Accountability Program.) The self-regulatory system is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus (ASRC, 2012, para. 1).

The ASRC was previously the National Advertising Review Council (NARC) but was rebranded as the ASRC in 2012.

The National Advertising Division (NAD) holds advertisers responsible for their claims by reviewing cases involving truth in advertising one brought forth by competitors, consumer groups, or even individual consumers.

  • For example, when Gorilla Glue said its glue was the “toughest glue on planet Earth,” the NAD ruled that this claim had to be proven.
  • Another case involved the claim that MacBooks were the “greenest family of notebooks.” Dell Computers challenged this and the NAD ruled that the claim could not be confirmed (Slutsky, 2011)




Review the readings and lectures for this week.

Create the Executive Summary portion of the Marketing Communications Plan using the business and information presented in the Case Study along with all of the previous submissions. Meet the following requirements:

  • In 350 to 600 words, create the Executive Summary for the plan.
  • Ensure that all changes and updates have been made to the previous sections of the plan.
  • Please adhere to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (6th ed., 2nd printing) when writing and submitting assignments and papers.
  • Submit the entire Marketing Communications Plan to the DropBox.

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