Ethics in Marketing – A Social Responsibility?

My Mass Communication professor climbed on to her desk, which seemed so small and far away in one of the large lecture halls at the University of Delaware. It was at that point Associate Professor Juliet Dee yelled something I will never forget. “If you remember one thing from this course,” she pleaded. “Watch television with your children!”

Her words did stick with me and I took them to heart while raising my own children years later. While at school, I did learn of all the studies done about the influence of media in our society. In fact, Professor Dee wrote books and gave lectures on the very subject and I wonder if she would be happy or disappointed with what I am about to say.

First, let me start by stating I believe media does influence both children and adults, both the developing minds and the most learned. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be in marketing, trying to influence behavior through different types of media. The shows and movies we watch, the books and advertisements we read, and the songs and presentations we listen to all make an impact, no matter how small.

Want an adorable example of young minds mirroring what they see? Watch these two toddlers act out their favorite scene from Frozen.

As a marketing professional most of my career, I have seen all sides… B2B, B2C, mass media, social media, print, digital, public relations, crisis management, direct mail, e-mail, events, promotions… the list goes on and on. Since I believe media influences thought and thoughts influence action, should I worry about what message I promote?

Fast-forward ten years after the lecture hall to my early career as an Account Executive at an advertising agency. My clients were new and used car dealerships throughout the country. I was responsible for over half a million dollars in media budget and produced radio, television and newspaper ads, as well as direct mail and other campaigns. Each state had it’s own laws and each required different ways to provide disclaimers. No doubt, you are used to hearing the low, fast talking disclaimers at the beginning or ending of radio spots or the fine print at the bottom of television and newspaper ads. Some of my accounts would really stretch those to the point I started to question my career choice.

During a long road trip with my boss, Continue reading