Advertising has a great influence on the way people understand themselves and the world around them as well as all the fundamental values and behavior (Foley 1999, p.220). Thus ethics and moral principles in advertising should be widely taught, motivated and understood well by advertisers so as to affect people positively by delivering their intended messages behind their Ads. This will eventually benefit them with the highest returns. This paper is divided mainly into 4 main sections. The first section is focusing on the different ethics and moral principles in advertising that are required to be followed by people so as to govern their content, shape and influence. The second section is concerned with how sexual appeals may affect people either positively or negatively. In addition, the paper includes a section where several in-depth interviews were conducted with a girl, a young man and an old lady that are regarded as regular TV viewers . The interviewees were asked whether they perceive these appeals as ethical or not. Finally, the paper included a section that focuses on how to motivate the moral corporate behavior so as to enable the business people to enhance such behavior at their workplace among their workers.
Ethics and moral principles in Adverting
There are certain moral principles that are quite crucial to ethical advertising. Moreover, these principles emphasize truthfulness, the dignity of the human person as well as the social responsibility. First, truthfulness in advertising highly recommends that the advertisements should avoid misrepresenting the truth by implying things that are not real or denying relevant facts. While the principle of the dignity of the human person criticizes advertisements that violate our right to raise any responsible choices or even make a good use of baser tendencies. Finally, the social responsibility highly criticizes and violates advertisements that encourage wasteful lifestyles which may either damage the environment or create any sort of ecological problems (Foley 1999, p.221).
“But who is accountable for ensuring that advertising is ethical?”
Codes of ethics should be updated regularly by the industry itself in order to regulate and control the advertising profession together with the feedback from ethicists, church people and/or consumer groups. However, the government should start to intervene if all the earlier mentioned ways had failed. This can be done by the government focusing their attention to advertisements that are mainly targeting vulnerable groups as children and the elderly. In case of any harm done by such advertisements, corrective notices should be published and injured parties should be compensated by advertisers so as to overcome such harm (Foley 1999, p.221).
Sex appeal advertising
When television commercials got introduced during the 1950s, the chance for companies to reach mass markets got higher. However, firms found themselves in constant competition with the growth of televised promotion usage and the ever-increasing print media. One method that differentiates one supplier from another is the sex appeal which was proven to be successful. Firms have found that they can use sex appeal to attract consumers' attention, deliver their message and give the audience the chance to choose that particular product over the other. Since sexuality is part of our basic animal instinct and by targeting advertising through sexual appeal; it could affect our behavior (Taflinger, 1996). However, sexual appeal has its positives and negative sides that will be reflected in this paper.
“But what is sex appeal advertising?”
It is a way to go through clutter by drawing consumers' attention by using sexually oriented appeals that are regarded and have been used as a communication technique (Taflinger, 1996).
Advantages of sex appeals
Many people wonder why these appeals have been increasingly used and promoted by advertisers recently .The answer to this question is quite simple; it works well in almost most of the cases, due to the attention it grabs from the consumers. From the perspective of a marketer, sex appeal is one of the human's basic biological instincts and it is considered as a great motivational factor. This is due to its likeability, memorable and the way it arouses people, which is a successful way to break through the clutter we face often. Therefore, sex appeal can be considered as an equation: “Advertisements that attract attention have the increased likelihood to affect persuasion” (Taflinger, 1996).
A young man had been interviewed, aging 20 and what he said was the following: “Sex appeal ads are cool, there are times when I watch a boring show and when I decide to change the channel during the break a sex appeal ad comes and it has this power that stops me from changing the channel.” Another young girl aging 19 said: “Yes, ads definitely grab my attention .In addition; it's quite easy to remember and to relate to the product being promoted or the intended message behind the ad appeal”.
Based on the earlier mentioned interviews, there are several roles that sex appeals may serve. First, sexual material in an ad is an initial tempt to the advertisement, therefore it has the stopping power. Second, as sex is arousing, it is used to enhance the delivered message. It is not only arousing but emotion educing, easy to relate, and most of all memorable. The last role is that these ads can create desire to the product due to the evoked emotional responses such as excitement, feelings of arousal and lust that can change the consumer's mood. However, when sex appeal ads are used in an inappropriate way, like using it only as an attention device, utilizing the female body, humiliating the female role or insulting propriety, weak brand recall and may also drive consumers to negative attitudes towards the brand. Therefore, this type of ad must be used in a cautious way in order for it to result in satisfying results (Taflinger, 1996).
Disadvantages of sex appeal ads
As mentioned earlier, sex appeal ads have their positive sides but they have their negative sides as well. They can be very eye catching but the consumer at the end might not get the message behind the ad and therefore the company has failed to deliver their message to the consumers because of the miscommunication. This means that the consumer has paid little attention to the message and this will reduce the consumers' intension to buy the product because he/she is simply not persuaded to go and buy it. Another disadvantage is the bad use of sex symbols that drive away the consumer from watching the ad (Taflinger, 1996).
A 46 year old woman was interviewed saying: “Revealing too many parts especially of the female body and also using many sexual symbols is very unethical. I am against melody TV ads because I get disgusted”. This shows that consumers can easily change the channel and by this the brand has failed to break through clutter.
Sex appeal ads in Egypt and the Middle East are not as successful as in the western countries because of the culture. Revealing sexual scenes are just unacceptable. Many Egyptian audiences especially girls and women do not like the idea of these types of ads and they also refuse their children to see it because of the bad influence that they see in the ad that is likely to affect their kids negatively.
Motivating moral corporate behavior
Motivating moral corporate behavior within companies among its workers can be done through several ways. First; “ Companies are institutionalizing ethics through formal structures such as codes of conduct; reporting mechanisms like ethics compliance officers, hot lines and whistle blowing; organizational structures like ethics and social responsibility committees, ethics advisory councils and judicial boards; and control devices such as social and ethics audits and performance evaluations which contain ethical criteria” (Lantos 1999, 222).
Second, ethics training programs ; which can be typically led either internally by ethics internal directors/officers or externally by outside ethics consultants which are typically designed for upper and middle management levels as well as for the lower-level employees but less frequently. The objective of these programs is mainly focusing on inspiring ethical awareness inspire, investigating ethical issues and discussing the essential criteria for ethical decision making. In Addition, these ethics training programs enable ethical people to challenge the moral dilemmas that are likely to arise at the business world (Lantos 1999, 222).
Third, business leaders must teach and train the value of values to their workers by transferring the moral agnostics and unbelievers to a confidence of the value of the virtue and the desirable quality in the marketplace. This will not only require the head knowledge but also the heart knowledge (Lantos 1999, 223).
Finally, the workers' heart should be filled and threatened by the fear of God so as to motivate their moral corporate behavior. This can be done through reminding them of their religion school lessons where they are ultimately responsible to God who will on the judgment day hold them accountable for how they lived their lives (Lantos 1999, 225).
Conclusions and Recommendations
Advertising plays a very important role in our lives and has a great impact on our understandings and beliefs. However, knowing what is ethical and what is unethical in advertising is a very difficult mission that is challenged by most of the companies. Each and every company deals with such challenge differently by motivating moral corporate behavior at their workplace among its workers through several ways. This will enable the advertisers to reduce the negative impacts that their appeals and Ads might have on people “especially the targeted customers”. This will eventually brings about the superior reputation and the highest returns for the companies they are working for through delivering the intended messages behind their Ads.