Violating the Principles of Ethical Research in Advertising
Advertising remains the most valuable marketing strategy for businesses around the world. Last year, the global advertising market was valued at $647 billion – with forecasts suggesting it will only continue to accelerate.
However, the digital age has presented new challenges. The evolution of social media has distracted audiences more than ever. As a result, marketers can tiptoe into unethical practices in a desperate bid to grab attention and compete in this oversaturated market.
Some immoral tactics are more apparent than others. For example, deliberate distortion and fraud are considered a serious violation of the core principles of ethical advertising. Yet subtler tactics such as ‘sugging’ – the practice of posing as a researcher to sell products – remain murky and difficult for consumers to identify. Similarly, anti-competitive practices such as ‘bait-and-switch,’ bid rigging, and pyramid schemes can be difficult to spot but are as equally evil.
Arguably, selective marketing remains the most unethical approach
Here, researchers will discourage participation from entire groups of people by only trying to appeal to a specific yet artificial demographic. For example, a clothing brand may exclude plus-sized models from its advertising, while a makeup brand fails to cater to the diversity of skin colors in its campaign. This approach is unrepresentative of audiences who come in all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities.
In today’s era where ethical consumerism has gained significant momentum, brands that seem to perpetuate stereotypes, idealize unattainable beauty standards or appear indifferent to environmentally sustainable business initiatives can be financially punished. Indeed, customers are demanding social responsibility and guilt from brands on an unprecedented scale – and may boycott those who seem to breach these moral principles.
Thus, violating ethical research in advertising is a costly move that is more likely to alienate and disenfranchise audiences rather than gain their trust and loyalty.
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