Ethical Advertisements: Definition and Principles

19 June ~ 11 min read 597 views
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Claspo Blog Ethical Advertisements: Definition and Principles

Plenty of advertisements we see each day around us. Some of them evoke emotions and the urge to get the product or service, while others don't. And as many creatives and marketing specialists are on the constant run to create the best commercial that is both business-oriented and can win at Cannes Lions, they can forget about the basics of ethical advertisements. 

Ads are one of the most popular ways to spread awareness about your brand, share your mission, and be useful to society. However, some forget about what is ethical marketing and use shady practices to get the attention of new customers. It might cost the brand all the authority and loyalty that has been absorbed throughout the years. And believe us, even the smallest mistake can cost you your reputation, especially with the rise of the cancel culture that has been gaining momentum for the last couple of years. One of the most noticeable examples is the Pepsi commercial where Kendall Jenner offers police officers a can of soda to achieve peace among them and protesters.  

Ethical advertisements should always be truthful, fair, and in sync with current issues. Basically, every creator and marketing specialist should check twice before releasing the ad. A good commercial shows the product, why the target audience needs it, and what feelings people should expect to get from using the product. Of course, you should not forget about checking in with the brand's mission, tone of voice, and the idea of the company. 

The principles of ethical advertising are spread among ATL and BTL marketing. 

Table of Contents

  1. What Is Ethical Advertising?
  2. Ethical Advertising Principles
  3. Conclusion

What Is Ethical Advertising?

What is ethical marketing? It is the corpus of moral principles of business communication with customers and people in general. There are specific rules that every marketer should follow; however, not all of them either follow them on purpose or don't know them. You should be sure that your brand talks with the outer world with dignity, sharing the good word and helping people to achieve their goals with the help of your products and services. 

A good ethical advertisement represents the brand in a decent manner showcasing the product or service in a brand's specific tone of voice and sharing its mission and ideas.

The goal of any commercial is to drive sales, generate brand awareness, and be useful to the target audience. Ethical advertisements that are creative can be spread not only among the target audience but also among many people who you haven't considered as your audience. It can be viral and impress lots of people who would share it further. So, basically, a good, creative, and ethical advertisement can save you promotion money as people will share it themselves. 

There are general ethical advertising rules that should be applied all over the world. But don't forget about cultural nuances that differ from country to country. For example, you can't release the same campaign for a female hygienic product in the USA and the UAE. 

Also, consult with your lawyers before releasing a 360 campaign to be sure you won't face legal issues or run into consumer backlash. 

Ethical Advertising Principles

The following key standards are applicable to any type of ethical advertising in any niche. Every creative or marketing specialist should follow the below-mentioned rules to make their brand more visible and lovable. And, the most important, to build a positive image without spending money to rebuild the reputation. The rules for ethical advertisements were created by Institute for Advertising Ethics by American Advertising Federation

Your Advertising Should Be Truthful

Every communication piece you create to serve your brand should be truthful. Each ad, campaign, news, and text should not lie to the reader. All mentioned pieces of information should share a common objective of truth as people value honest advertising. 

Don't be afraid that some people will find your product or service boring or not as useful, be afraid if they buy your product and be unhappy because of the lie you've spread via an ad. 

Be Careful to Share Your Personal Ethics

Each person has personal ethics that may be aligned with general ethics. However, each creator and marketing specialist should be careful when it comes to implementing personal thoughts into the working process. You can either contact the lawyer before releasing the ad or check with the focus group if they feel offended or see a double meaning in your work. 

It is always a good idea to check your ethical advertising and show it to people or to some of your target audience. 

Be Clear With Intentions and Outcome

If you offer something for free or with a huge discount, you should state what you want in return. Consumers should be aware of what you want from them and how they can get the particular item or a service, let's say, for free. For example, if you offer free shipping, state that users should order goods for a total cost of more than $50. Don't place a huge sentence saying you're offering free shipping without placing the conditions. It will be a huge risk to your reputation if the user finds out about the total price condition right before placing the order. 

Need More Leads? Let's Do It Together

Each ethical advertising should be transparent and understandable for every consumer. Even when other people, i.e., influencers, represent your brand, you should be sure that they won't place you in a bad light or anything like that. 

Ads and Editorials Are Different

Advertisements and press releases have a bit different goals, even though presenting your brand and raising awareness. Don't hide ads in the editorial content as it misleads people and tricks them into believing that the article is not an advertisement, but it is. Once again, the main rule of ethical advertising is that you should be sincere with your customers and don't hide the fact that the content you share is a commercial. 

Use Customers’ Information Responsibly

As an advertiser, you have an obligation to be transparent with your customer when it comes to using their personal information. Provide all details on what you are going to do with the gathered information. Customers worry about their personal data as some survey questions or information gathered by websites has a lot of personal topics. As you use it for further marketing goals, you should notify your customers exactly about that. Such information helps marketers to adjust their commercials and be more relevant and useful. This means that you create things that are useful to your consumers, so notify them that after providing their personal stuff, they get better products and more personalized and relevant commercials. 

Consumers Treatment

There are specific general laws that are not just a question of ethics but a question of following the general law. You can't promote drugs and alcohol as it might harm the health of many. It is also important to learn which products and services you can't promote among a younger audience. The advertising regulations are a lot stricter when it comes to kids' marketing. 

Ethical Advertising Concerns

If you are not sure about how the target audience will feel about your commercial, you can always consult other specialists, get a focus group, and consult with your lawyers. There are general ethical standards that you should follow as well as standards of the ethical advertisements that we've discussed here. So make sure to check twice everything that you don't feel great about to omit further misunderstandings. 

Follow Regulations

When following specific regulations like the above-mentioned ones, you can create better creative works, even with such rules. The rules don't make your ads less creative but rather more creative as you search for ways to promote your products and services ethically. 


Advertising helps to raise the consumers' awareness and interest in products and services. In some cases, people. However, recently there have been noticeable trends when advertising has ceased to be just information about the product. Now it contains a message through which someone is trying to convey something to society. This message can touch on the most sensitive social issues. Thus they should follow the ethical advertising rules. Many creatives seem to use topics that touch many like family values, diversity of age, race, gender, etc., special needs, discrimination based on gender, age, preferences, race, etc., ecology, and many more. 

Marketers try to use the most relevant topics to consumers in their strategies as it has a chance to arouse interest and be remembered the most. However, creativity sometimes needs to be restrained, as there is often a subjective aspect in both the people who develop the advertising material and the people who approve it. What may be funny to one will be offensive to another, and the company will be forced to apologize publicly.

And it seems that all this is understandable, but for some reason, mistakes happen even in giant companies with a large staff of lawyers and crisis managers. Unfortunately, it is with the perception of the consequences of ethical and moral aspects. Ethics and morality are components that cannot be measured. However, ethics is an important component of any successful advertising. 

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