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Archive for August, 2011

Author: Vasco Doves

1. THE ROLE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS

Public relations (PR) is a term that is widely misunderstood and misused to describe anything from selling to hosting, when in fact it is a very specific communications process. Every company, organization, association, and government or says. They might be employees, customers, stockholders, competitors, suppliers, or Just the general population of consumers. Each of these groups may be referred to as one of the organization's publics. The process of public relations manages the organization's relationships with these publics.

As soon as word of the Valdez Spill got out, the PR staff at Exxon assumed responsibility for handling the barrage of phone calls from the press and the public and for managing all company communications with the media.

Simultaneously, other company departments had to deal with numerous local, state, and federal government agencies and with the community at large – not just in Valdez, Alaska, but anywhere in the world where someone was touched by the disaster. In addition, myriad other publics suddenly popped into the spotlight demanding special attention and care: Alaskan fishermen, both houses of congress, local politicians, the financial community, stockholder, employed, the local press, national networks, Exxon dealers, and environmental groups, for starters.

Companies and organizations know they must consider the public impact of their actions and decisions because of the powerful effect of public opinion. This is especially true in time of crisis, emergency, or disaster. But it is just as true for major policy decisions concerning changes in business management, pricing policies, labor negotiations, introduction of new products, or changes in distribution methods. Each of these decisions affects different groups in different ways. Conversely, effective administrators can use the power of these groups' opinions to bring about positive changes.

In short, the purpose of ever using labeled public relations is to influence public opinion toward building goodwill and a positive reputation for the organization. In one instance, the PR effort might be to rally public support; in another, to obtain public understanding or neutrality or in still another, simply to respond to inquiries. Well-executed public relations is a long-term activity that molds good relationships between an organization and its publics. Put yourself in the position of Exxon's top public relations manager at the time of the Valdez accident. What do you suppose was the major thrust of the PR staff's efforts in the days immediately following the discovery of the oil spill? What might they have been called on to do?

We will discuss these and other questions in this chapter. But first it is important to understand the relationship between public relations and advertising they are so closely related but so often misunderstood.

2. CORPORATE ADVERTISING

As mentioned earlier, corporate advertising is basic tool of public relations. It includes public relations advertising, institutional advertising, corporate identity advertising, and recruitment advertising. Their use depends on the particular situation, the audience or public being addressed, and the message the firm needs to communicate.

2.1 PUBLIC RELATIONS ADVERTISING

Public relations advertising is often used when a company wishes to communicate directly with one of its important publics to express its feelings or enhance its paint of view to that particular audience. The Claris ad in exhibit 18-7, for example, targets customers investors, and stock analysts. Public relations ads are typically used to improve the company's relations with labor, government, customers, or suppliers.

When companies sponsor art events, programs on public television, or charitable activities, they frequently place public relations ads in other media to promote the programs and their sponsorship. These ads are designed to enhance the company's general community citizenship and to create public goodwill. The ad in Exhibit 18-8 promotes an art exhibit ant southwestern Bell\'s sponsorship role.

2.2 CORPORATE/INSTITUTIONAL ADVERTISING

In recent years the term corporate advertising has come to denote that broad area of non-product advertising used specifically to enhance a company's image and increase lagging awareness. The traditional term for this its institutional advertising.

Institutional or corporate ad campaigns may serve a variety of purposes – to report the company's accomplishments, to position the company competitively in the market, to reflect a change in corporate personality, to shore up stock prices, to improve employee morale, or to avoid a communications problem with agents, suppliers, dealers, or customers.

Companies and even professional advertising people have historically questioned, or simply misunderstood, the effectiveness of corporate advertising. Retailers, in particular, have clung to the idea that institutional advertising may be pretty or nice, but that it ' doesn't make the cash register ring '. However, a series of marketing research studies sponsored by Time magazine and conducted by the Jankelovich, Kelly & White research firm offered dramatic evidence to the contrary.

In the first of these studies, 700 middle- and upper-management executives were interviewed in the top 25 U.S. markets. The researchers evaluated five companies that were currently doing corporate advertising and five that were not. They found that the companies using corporate advertising registered significantly better awareness, familiarity, and overall impression than companies using only product advertising. In fact, the five corporate advertisers in the study drew higher ratings in every one of 16 characteristics measured, including being known for quality products, having competent management, and paying higher dividends. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the research was the fact that the five companies with no corporate advertising spent far more for total advertising than did the firms engaged in corporate advertising.

David Ogilvy, the founder and creative head of Ogilvy & Mather, has been an outspoken advocate of corporate advertising. However, he has been appalled by most corporate advertising, characterizing it as filled with ' pomposity ', ' Vague generalizations,' and ' fatuous platitudes'. Corporate advertising has also been criticized for oblivious to the needs of the audience.

Responding to such criticisms and to other forces in the marketplace, corporations have made policies and campaigns. Expenditures for this type over the last decade. The primary medium used for corporate advertising is consumer (primarily business) magazines, followed by network television.

A change in message strategy has also accompanied this increase in corporate ad spending. In the past, most corporate ads were designed primarily to create goodwill for the company. Today with many corporations diversifying and competition from for ling advertisers increasing, these same firms find their corporate ads must do much more. Their ads must accomplish specific objectives- develop awareness of the company and its activities, attract quality employees, tie a diverse product line together, and take a stand on important public issues.

Another category of corporate advertising is called advocacy advertising. Corporations use it to communicate their views on issues that affect tailors its stand to protect its position in the marketplace.

Corporate advertising is also increasingly being used to set the company up for future sales. Although this is traditionally the realm of product advertising, many advertisers have instituted ' umbrella ' campaigns that simultaneously communicate message about the products and the company. This has been termed market prep corporate advertising a GTE umbrella campaign, for example, emphasized the company\'s products and services in a way that pointed up its overall technological sophistication.

Of course, no amount of image advertising can accomplish desired goals if the image does not match the corporation. As noted image consultant Clive Chajet put it, 'You can't get away with a dies enounce between the image and the reality – at least not for long '. If, for example, a sophisticated high-tech corporation like IBM tried to project a homey, small-town family image. It would lose credibility very quickly.

2.3 CORPORATE IDENTITY ADVERTISING

Companies take pride in their logos and corporate signatures in fact, the graphic designs that identity corporate names and products are considered valuable assets of the company, and great effort is expended to protect their individuality and ownership. The corporate logo may even dominate advertisement. What does a company do, though, when it decides to change its name, logos, trademarks, or corporate signatures, as when it merges with another company? How does it communicate that change to the market it serves and to other influential publics? This is the job of corporate identity advertising.

When software publisher Productivity Products International changed its name to Stepstone Inc., it faced an interesting dilemma. It needed to advertise the change. But in Europe, a key market for the firm, a corporate name change implies that the business has gone bankrupt and is starting over with a new identity. So, rather than announcing its new name in the print media, stepson used a direct-mail campaign. It mailed an announcement of its name change to customers, prospects, investors, and the press. The campaign was a success: within days of the mailing, almost 70 customers and prospects called Stepstone to find out more about the company and its products. More familiar corporate name changes from the recent past include the switch from America of Western Bank corporation to First Intestate Bankcorp; the change of Consolidated Foods to replace the pre-merger identities of Boroughs and Sperry.

2.4 RECRUITMENT ADVERTISING

When the prime objective of corporate advertising is to attract employment applications, companies use recruitment advertising such as the Chiat/Da ad in Exhibit 18-10. Recruitment advertising is most frequently found in the classified sections of daily newspapers and is typically the responsibility of the personnel department rather than the advertising department. Recruitment advertising has become such a large field, though, that many advertising agencies now have recruitment specialists on their staffs. In fact, some agencies specialize completely in recruitment advertising, and their clients are corporate personnel managers rather than advertising department managers These agencies create, write, and place classified advertisements in news papers around the country and prepare recruitment display ads for specialized trade publications. So far in this chapter, we have discussed only the advertising of commercial organizations. But nonprofit organizations also advertise. The government charities, trade associations, and religious groups, for example, use the same kinds of creative and media strategies as their counterparts in the for-profit sector to convey messages to the public. But unlike commercial advertisers whose goal is to create awareness, image, or brand loyalty on the pan o\' consumers, noncommercial organizations use advertising to affect consume! opinions, perceptions, or behavior–with no profit motive. While commercial advertising is used to stimulate sales.

3. NON-COMMERCIAL ADVERTISING

Used to stimulate donations, to persuade people to vote one way or another or to bring attention to social causes.

If a specific commercial objective for a new shampoo is to change people\'; buying habits, the analogous noncommercial objective for an energy conservation program might be to change people\'s activity habits, such as turning off the lights. The latter is an example of demarcating, which means the advertiser is actually trying to get consumers to buy less of a product 01 service. Exhibit 18-11 compares objectives of commercial and noncommercial advertisers.

3.1 EXAMPLES OF NONCOMMERCIAL ADVERTISING

One example of noncommercial advertising conducted on a large scale is the anti-drug campaign created by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. In 1987, this coalition of more than 200 ad agencies, the media and many other companies in the communications business launched an all-out attack on drug abuse. The coalition set its goal as the 'fundamental reshaping of social attitudes about illegal drug usage.' The $1.5 billion program entails the efforts of ad agencies across the country, each developing components of the campaign at their own cost.

The anti-drug program includes hundreds of newspaper and magazine ads as well as 200 different commercials and print ads. The space and time allotted for the ads, all donated by the media, are worth an estimated $310 million per year.24 Similarly, most of the creative and production suppliers have donated their services.

The wide variety of ads have been created to reach specific target groups. Some are aimed at cocaine users, some at marijuana smokers; some are aimed at parents, some at children. Most ads present hard-hitting messages about the dangers of drug abuse, depicting drug use as a sure route to the hospital or the cemetery. In a TV commercial targeted at teenaged marijuana smokers, for example, the Ayer agency suggests that pot smokers are subjecting themselves to the risk of physical and mental health problems. Other commercials compare the brain on drugs to an egg in frying pan or show dead rats that have succumbed to cocaine abuse. Print ads have also emphasized the dangers of cocaine abuse, including a series of ads developed by DDB Needham Worldwide that enumerate cocaine's effects. Exhibit 18-12 is from that series of ads. In addition, some ads speak to parents who use drugs ('If parents stop, kids won't start'), to women tempted to use cocaine ('What to do if he hands you a line'), and to parents who have put off talking to their children about drugs ('If everybody says it can\'t happen to their kids, then whose kids is it happening to?').

The effort is being billed as the 'largest and most ambitious private-sector, voluntary peacetime effort ever undertaken.' Believing that the United States cannot succeed as a drug culture and that advertising can 'demoralize' drug use, the organization wants nothing less than a drug-free America.

Not all public service advertising is done on such a massive scale. We see advertisements daily for intangible humanitarian social causes (Red Cross), political ideas or issues (political candidates), philosophical or religious positions (Church of Latter Day Saints), or particular attitudes and viewpoints (labor unions). In most cases, these advertisements are created and placed by nonprofit organizations, and the product they advertise is their particular mission in life, be it politics, welfare, religion, conservation, health, art, happiness, or love.

Research conducted by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America proves that noncommercial advertising does change consumer attitudes. Specifically, the coalition\'s ads have changed attitudes about drug use. Thus, by providing information to the public on issues such as health, safety, education, and the environment, noncommercial advertising helps build a better society. Public service announcements emphasizing the dangers of unsafe sex and drunk driving and those stressing the virtues of recycling and continuing education demonstrate that noncommercial advertising can help to enhance the quality of life.

3.2 TYPES OF NON-COMMERCIAL ADVERTISING

One way to categorize the various types of noncommercial advertising is by the organizations that use them. For instance, advertising is used by churches, schools, universities, charitable organizations, and many other non-business institutions. We also see advertising by associations, such as labor groups, professional organizations, and trade and civic associations. In addition, we witness millions of dollars' worth of advertising placed government organizations: the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine, Corps, and Postal Service; the Social Security Administration; the Internal Revenue Service; and various state chambers of commerce. In addition, in election years we are bombarded with all sorts of political advertising that qualifies as noncommercial. The Advertising Council Most of the national PSAs you see on television have been placed there by the Advertising Council, a private, nonprofit organization that links noncommercial campaign sponsors with ad agencies. The sponsors pay for production costs, while the ad agencies donate their creative services.

3.3 ADVERTISING COUNCIL

The Ad Council's policy today is basically the same as when it began during World War II: 'Accept no subsidy from government and remain independent of it. Conduct campaigns of service to the nation at large, avoiding regional, sectarian, or special-interest drives of all kinds. Remain nonpartisan and nonpolitical. Conduct the Council on a voluntary basis. Accept no project that does not lend itself to the advertising method. Accept no campaign with a commercial interest unless the public interest is obviously over riding.'

Among familiar campaigns created by the Ad Council are those for the United Negro College Fund ('A mind is a terrible thing to waste'); child abuse prevention ('Help destroy a family tradition'); the United Way ('It works for all of us'); crime prevention ('Take a bite out of crime'); and the U.S. Department of Transportation ('Drinking and driving can kill a friendship'). Exhibit 18-17 shows frames from an Ad Council commercial that advocates a healthy diet. The Ad Council's two longest-running campaigns are those for the American Red Cross and forest fire prevention. According to the Ad Council's research, the number of forest fires has been cut in half over the life of the Smokey Bear campaign.29 The council is currently playing a role in overseeing the Partnership for a Drug-Free America effort.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/advertising-articles/public-relations-corporate-advertising-and-noncommercial-advertising-4578973.html

Author: Boyan Yordanof

Is advertising the ultimate means to inform and help us in our everyday decision-making or is it just an excessively powerful form of mass deception used by companies to persuade their prospects and customers to buy products and services they do not need? Consumers in the global village are exposed to increasing number of advertisement messages and spending for advertisements is increasing accordingly.

It will not be exaggerated if we conclude that we are \'soaked in this cultural rain of marketing communications\' through TV, press, cinema, Internet, etc. (Hackley and Kitchen, 1999). But if thirty years ago the marketing communication tools were used mainly as a product-centered tactical means, now the promotional mix, and in particular the advertising is focused on signs and semiotics. Some argue that the marketers\' efforts eventually are 'turning the economy into symbol so that it means something to the consumer' (Williamson, cited in Anonymous, Marketing Communications, 2006: 569). One critical consequence is that many of the contemporary advertisements 'are selling us ourselves' (ibid.)

The abovementioned process is influenced by the commoditisation of products and blurring of consumer\'s own perceptions of the companies\' offering. In order to differentiate and position their products and/or services today\'s businesses employ advertising which is sometimes considered not only of bad taste, but also as deliberately intrusive and manipulative. The issue of bad advertising is topical to such extent that organisations like Adbusters have embraced the tactics of subvertising – revealing the real intend behind the modern advertising. The Adbusters magazine editor-in-chief Kalle Lason commented on the corporate image building communication activities of the big companies: 'We know that oil companies aren\'t really friendly to nature, and tobacco companies don\'t really care about ethics' (Arnold, 2001). On the other hand, the 'ethics and social responsibility are important determinants of such long-term gains as survival, long-term profitability, and competitiveness of the organization' (Singhapakdi, 1999). Without communications strategy that revolves around ethics and social responsibility the concepts of total quality and customer relationships building become elusive. However, there could be no easy clear-cut ethics formula of marketing communications.

ADVERTISING – PRESCIOUS INFORMATION OR VICIOUS MANIPULATION?

In order to get insights into the consumer perception about the role of advertising we have reviewed a number of articles and conducted four in-depth interviews. A number of research papers reach opposed conclusions. These vary from the ones stating that 'the ethicality of a firm\'s behavior is an important consideration during the purchase decision' and that consumers 'will reward ethical behavior by a willingness to pay higher prices for that firm\'s product' (Creyer and Ross Jr., 1997) to others stressing that 'although consumers may express a desire to support ethical companies, and punish unethical companies, their actual purchase behaviour often remains unaffected by ethical concerns' and that 'price, quality and value outweigh ethical criteria in consumer purchase behaviour' (Carrigan and Attalla, 2001). Focusing on the advertising as the most prominent marketing communication tool we have constructed and conducted an interview consisting of four themes and nine questions. The conceptual frame of this paper is built on these four themes.

THEME I. The Ethics in Advertising

The first theme comprises two introductory questions about the ethics in advertising in general.

I.A. How would you define the ethics in advertising?

The term ethics in business involves 'morality, organisational ethics and professional deontology' (Isaac, cited in Bergadaa\', 2007). Every industry has its own guidelines for the ethical requirements. However, the principal four requirements for marketing communications are to be legal, decent, honest and truthful. Unfortunately, in a society where the course of action of the companies is determined by profit targets the use of marketing communications messages 'may constitute a form of social pollution through the potentially damaging and unintended effects it may have on consumer decision making' (Hackley and Kitchen, 1999).

One of the interviewed respondents stated that 'the most successful companies do no need ethics in their activities because they have built empires.' Another view is that 'sooner or later whoever is not ethical will face the negative consequences.'

I.B. What is your perception of the importance of ethics in advertising?

The second question is about the importance of being moral when communicating with/to your target audiences and the way consumers/customers view it. In different research papers we have found quite opposing conclusions. Ethics of business seems to be evaluated either as very important in the decision making process or as not really a serious factor in this process. An example of rather extreme stance is that 'disaster awaits any brand that acts cynically' (Odell, 2007).

It may seem obvious that the responsibility should be carried by the advertiser because 'his is the key responsibility in keeping advertising clean and decent' (Bernstein, 1951). On the other hand the companies\' actions are defined by the 'the canons of social responsibility and good taste' (ibid.). One of the interviewees said:

'The only responsible for giving decent advertising is the one who profits at the end. Company\'s profits should not be at the expense of society.'

Another one stated that 'our culture and the level of societal awareness determine the good and bad in advertising'.

The increased importance of marketing communications ethics is underscored by the need of applying more dialogical, two-way communications approaches. The 'demassification technologies have the potential to facilitate dialogue', but the 'monologic' attitude is still the predominant one (Botan, 1997). Arnold (2001) points out the cases of Monsanto and Esso which had to pay 'a price for its [theirs] one-way communications strategy'. In this train of thought we may review ethics in advertisements from two different perspectives as suggested by our respondents and different points of view in the reviewed papers. The first one is that it is imperative to have one common code of ethics imposed by the law. The other affirms the independence and responsibility of every industry for setting its own standards.

THEME II. Which type of regulation should be the leading one in the field of advertising?

The next theme directs the attention towards the regulation system which should be the primary one. Widely accepted opinion is that both self regulation and legal controls should work in synergy. In other words the codes of practice are meant to complement the laws. However, in certain countries there are stronger legal controls over the advertising, e.g. in Scandinavia. On the other hand the industry\'s self regulation is preferred in the Anglo-Saxon world. Still, not everyone agrees with the laissez-faire concept.

One of our respondents said:

'I believe governments should impose stricter legal frame and harsher punishment for companies which do not comply with the law.'

Needless to say, the social acceptability varies from one culture/country to another. At the end of the day 'good taste or bad is largely a matter of the time, the place, and the individual' (Bernstein, 1951). It would be also probably impossible to set clear-cut detailed rules in the era of Internet and interactive TV. Therefore, both types of regulation should be applied with the ultimate aim of reaching balance between the sacred right of freedom of choice and information and minimizing possible widespread offence. Put differently, the goal is synchronising the 'different ethical frameworks' of marketers and 'others in society' in order to fill the 'ethics gap' (Hunt and Vitell, 2006).

THEME III. Content of Advertisements.

Probably the most controversial issue in the field of marketing communications is the content of advertisements. Nwachukwu et al. (1997) distinguish three areas of interest in terms of ethical judgment of ads: 'individual autonomy, consumer sovereignty, and the nature of the product'. The individual autonomy is concerned with advertising to children. Consumer sovereignty deals with the level of knowledge and sophistication of the target audience whereas the ads for harmful products are in the centre of public opinion for a long time. We have added two more perspectives to arrive at five questions in the conducted interviews. The first one concerns the advertisement that imply sense of guilt and praise affluence that in the most cases cannot be achieved and the second one is about advertisements stimulating desire and satisfaction through acquisition of material goods.

III.A. What is your attitude towards the advertisement of harmful products?

A typical example is the advertisement of cigarettes. Nowadays we cannot see slogans like 'Camel Agrees with Your Throat' (Chickenhead, accessed 25th September 2007) or 'Chesterfield – Packs More Pleasure – Because It\'s More Perfectly Packed!' (Chickenhead, accessed 25th September 2007). The general advertisement, sponsorship and other marketing communications means are already prohibited to be used by cigarette producers. Surprisingly, most of the answers of the respondents were not against the cigarettes advertisement. One of the respondents said:

'People are well informed about the consequences of smoking so it is a matter of personal choice.'

As with many other contemporary products the shift in communications messages for cigarettes is oriented towards symbol and image building. The same can be said for the alcohol ads. A well-known example of emotional advertising is the Absolut Vodka campaign. From Absolut Nectar, through Absolut Fantasy to Absolut World the Swedish drink actually aims to be Absolut… Everything.

Advertising of hazardous products is even more harshly criticised when it is aimed at audiences with low individual autonomy, i.e. children. Two main issues in this respect are the manipulation of cigarettes and alcohol as 'the rite of passage into adulthood' and the fact that 'sales of health-hazardous products (alcohol, cigarettes) develop freely without much disapproval' (Bergadaa, 2007).

III.B. What is your attitude towards the advertisement to children?

Children are not only customers, but also consumers, influencers and users in the family Decision-Making Unit (DMU). Additional difficulty is that they are too impressionable to be deciders in the DMU. At the same time it is not a secret that marketers apply 'the same basic strategy of trying to sell the parent through the child\'s insistence on the purchase' (Bernstein, 1951). It is not a surprise then that 'spending on advertising for children has increased five-fold in the last ten years and two thirds of commercials during child television programs are for food products' (Bergadaa 2007). In the US alone children represent a direct purchases market of $24 billion worth (McNeal cited in Bergadaa, 2007) which certainly is on the top of the agendas of many companies. While exploiting children\'s decision-making immaturity advertisers often go too far in dematerialising their products and 'teleporting children out of the tangible and into the virtual world of brand names' (Bergadaa 2007). Teenage virtual worlds like Habbo where snack food brands run advertising campaigns are already a fact of life (Goldie, 2007). The imaginative worlds are popular not only online. Hugely successful for creating a fantasy world is Mc Donald\'s. The company tops the European list of kids\' advertisers while more than half of the children\'s adverts are for junk food.

In some countries there are harsher restrictions to the children advertising.

• 'Sweden and Norway do not permit any television advertising to be directed towards children under 12 and no adverts at all are allowed during children\'s programmes.
• Australia does not allow advertisements during programmes for pre-school children.
• Austria does not permit advertising during children\'s programmes, and in the Flemish region of Belgium no advertising is permitted 5 minutes before or after programmes for children.
• Sponsorship of children\'s programmes is not permitted in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden while in Germany and the Netherlands, although it is allowed, it is not used in practice.' (McSpotlight, accessed 20th September 2007).

According to a research by Roberts and Pettigrew (2007) the most frequent themes in children advertising are 'grazing, the denigration of core foods, exaggerated health claims, and the implied ability of certain foods to enhance popularity, performance and mood.' But the junk food is not the only reason for parents\' preoccupation. According to a study of Kaiser Family Foundation (Dolliver, 2007) parents are concerned about the amount of advertising of the following products (in order of importance): toys, video games, clothing, alcohol/beer, movies, etc.

The interviewed respondents were unanimous: 'The advertising to children should be strictly monitored.' Similar results were obtained in surveys by Rasmussen Reports and Kaiser Family Foundation. Nevertheless, the legal means are just one part of the children\'s protection. The other part involves 'the decision-making responsibility of parents and teachers' which is 'to assist their children in developing a skeptical attitude to the information in advertising' (Bergadaa 2007). The marketers themselves should also be involved in shaping the moral system of our future and 'each brand should have its own deontology – a code of practice regarding children – rather than rely on industry codes' (Horgan, 2007).

III.C. Do you think there are many misleading, exaggerating and confusing advertisements. Are many ads promising things that are not possible to achieve?

It will not be exaggerated to state that advertising is in a sense 'salesmanship addressed to masses of potential buyers rather than to one buyer at a time' (Bernstein, 1951). Since 'salesmanship itself is persuasion' (ibid.) we cannot merely blame advertisers for pursuing their sales goals. However, in the last twenty years or so advertisers have increasingly applied semiotics in their messages and as a consequence ads have begun to function more and more as symbols. One extreme case in this stream of advertising is the creation of idealised image of a person who uses the advertised product. Bishop (2000) draws our attention to two 'typical representatives of self-identity image ads' which entice consumers to project the respective images to themselves through use of the products:

– 'The Beautiful Woman';
– 'The Sexy Teenagers.

Through setting of such stereotypes advertisers not only mislead the public and exaggerate the effects of products but also provoke low self-esteem in consumers. At the same time they promise results that in most cases are simply impossible to achieve. Instead of promoting '\'glamorous\' anorexic body images' communication messages should use 'varied body types' and should drop the idea of the 'impossible physical body images' (Bishop, 2000).

To question III.C one of the respondents commented:

'The customers of these products [the ones advertised through thin models] are mostly people who do not have the same physical characteristic. For me, this type of advertising is deliberately aimed at people to make them feel not complete, far from attractive social outsiders.'

However, another interviewed stated that: 'every person has his own way of evaluating what is believable and what is misleading. Consumers are enough sophisticated to know what is exaggerated.'

Similarly, Bishop (2000) concludes that 'image ads are not false or misleading', and 'whether or not they advocate false values is a matter for subjective reflection.' The author argues that image ads do not interfere with our internal autonomy and if people are misled, it is because they want it. It is all about our free choice of behaviour and no advertisement can modify our desires. Perhaps, the truth lies somewhere in-between the two extreme positions.

III.D. What is your attitude towards advertisement that imply sense of guilt, and praise affluence that in the most cases cannot be achieved?

A more specific case of controversial advertising is the one used to 'promote not so much self indulgence as self doubt'; the one that 'seeks to create needs, not to fulfill them: to generate new anxieties instead of allaying old ones' (Hackley and Kitchen, 1999). A response of our interviewee reads:

'It is not only a matter of advertising. It has to do with the social inequality and the desire to possess what you can not.'

Hackley and Kitchen (1999) refer to this discrepancy as to 'when reality does not match the image of affluence and the result is a subjective feeling of dissonance'. The issue could be elaborated further through the next question.

III.E. Are advertisements stimulating desire and satisfaction through acquisition of material goods moral?

We live in a society which is more or less marked by materialism. Advertisements are often blamed to fuel consumption which is allegedly leading to happiness. The role of promoting satisfaction through acquisition of material goods has become so important that currently the 'media products are characterised by relativism, irony, self referentiality and hedonism' (Hackley and Kitchen, 1999). Is the popular saying 'those who die with most toys win' really a motivator in consumers\' behavior and could consumption be the cure of emotional dissonance? This seems to be the case provided a brand succeeds to enter in the evoked set of consumer choices. This new 'kind of materialism' goes hand in hand with 'the emergence of individualism via sheer hedonism along with narcissism and selfishness' (Bergadaa 2007).

THEME IV. Is the quantity of advertisements justified?

IV.A. Do you think there is too much advertising?

An audit of food advertising aimed at children in Australia by Roberts and Pettigrew (2007) revealed that '28.5 hours of children\'s television programming sampled contained 950 advertisements.' Actually, we all are being bombarded by ads on TV, Internet, print media, etc. The amount and content of marketing communications messages puts the consumer\'s information processing capacity to a test. The exposure to marketing data overload often leads to diluted consumer\'s selective perception. Whether our responses are circumscribed by 'confusion, existential despair, and loss of moral identity' or we 'adapt constructively to the [communications] Leviathan and become intelligent, cynical, streetwise' (Hackley and Kitchen, 1999) is a question open to debate.

Two opposite streams of attitudes were produced in our research. One stance is concerned with the undue quantity of advertisement. The other stream proclaims that 'If there is an advertisement, so it is justified by a need.' We agree that the communications overload may indeed have 'pervasive effect on the social ecology of the developed world' (Hackley and Kitchen, 1999). If the increasing communication pollution is not managed properly by both legal and industry points of view yet again the advertising will manage 'to hoist its foot to its own mouth and kick out a couple of its own front teeth' (Bernstein, 1951).

CONCLUSION

In preparation of this paper we have used qualitative depth interviews in order to get insights for what actual customers opine. We have also substantiated our presentation with references to a number of influential articles in the field of ethics in marketing communications. Generally, our respondents as well as various authors have taken two opposing stances. The first one affirms that ethics in marketing communications matters considerably, whereas the other one downsizes the importance of ethics, thereby stressing the role of other factors in consumer decision-making, i.e. price, brand loyalty, convenience, etc.

Marketers should understand their 'responsibility for the emerging portrait of future society' (Bergadaa 2007). Not only there is a need of legal ethical frame but also professional ethical benchmarks and deontology should be in place. One of the main challenges is to avoid creating 'a happy customer in the short term', because 'in the long run both consumer and society may suffer as a direct result of the marketer\'s actions in \'satisfying\' the consumer' (Carrigan and Attalla, 2001).

The strength of the advertisement influence exerted on consumers is only one part of the equation. On the other hand we may affirm that consumers are not morally subservient and according to the information process models there is a natural cognitive defense. The communications tools 'offer us a theatre of our own imagination' (Hackley and Kitchen, 1999). Consequently, we accept the reality in terms of our own experiences. In this sense marketers do not create reality – they are simply a mirror of the society. We may argue that unfortunately this is not always the case.

Advertising is often deservedly seen as the embodiment of consumer freedom and choice. Notwithstanding this important role, when the choice is 'between one candy bar and another, the latest savoury snack or sweetened breakfast cereal or fast food restaurant' (McSpotlight, accessed 20th September 2007) it represents anything else but not an alternative and certainly not a healthy one.

The words of Bernstein (1951), said fifty-six years ago are still very much a question of present interest: 'It is not true that if we \'save advertising, we save all,\' but it seems reasonable to assume that if we do not save advertising, we might lose all.'

REFERENCES:
Anonymous (2006). Module Book 6, Marketing Communications, University of Leicester.
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About the Author

Boyan Yordanof is in the tourism business since 1996. His main interests are in Internet Marketing and more specifically Service Branding in the Hospitality Industry. Boyan is an Internet Marketing Executive at RIU Seabank Hotel Malta.

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Business URL:
http://www.seabankhotel.com

Personal URL:
http://www.yordanof.com

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