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Comm Ethics Term Paper Discussion

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I have placed a couple of e-mails here (with identities masked) that asked questions about the term paper along with my responses:

First, a proposed outline for the paper:

Outline for Marketing Ethics Paper

My paper is on the ethics involved in marketing and advertising. I will cover all the jobs that advertising entails and all the ethically responsibilities that go with it.

I'm glad you sent me the outline, as it doesn't exactly meet the term paper assignment as outlined at . I could be missing something here, so please correct me if I've misunderstood anything. That said, advertising and marketing are forms of content that is associated with a broad variety of media. The nature of that content varies, at least to some extent, wth the medium, as do the processes, and roles involved, in its production. There are many media in which advertising is fairly unusual, but it is a common place in what we usually call "mass media".

I would suggest picking a medium in which marketing and advertising are common (television, radio, newspapers, magazines, merchandise packaging, etc (see for a compact list of media, including a range of publishing and broadcast media). You can, if you like, for the medium you select, focus on the advertising or marketing genre. As outlined, it appears that you are working from the assumption of a direct public relations product. Examples of such direct products include press releases, brochures, and direct mail advertising, but you might be referring to magazine or newspaper ads. Any of these would be fine as the identified medium, but if the content is an ad in a newspaper or magazine, then the medium is the newspaper or magazine and you are focusing on the process through which ads flow from initial demand to publication.

Once you've identified and discussed the medium and the form of content, identify the roles associated with making that advertising/marketing product happen, from the initial desire (the advertiser) to its delivery to an end user (a distributor/carrier, retailer, or the consumer of content themselves). Who is involved in the process of making an advertisement happen, and what ethical responsibilities are involved for each role player. The roles you've identified are pretty good in this regard, but made incomplete in part because you aren't focusing on a specific medium. How is the product delivered to its end consumer, and what about the consumer them selves. A list of generalized roles (different media may have different names for the same generalized role) that recur across many media is documented in

Since your theme is advertising and marketing, I have no objection to your outlining something of the history of business ethics, but I would note that this is a large area with a wide variety of perspectives that range from Stanley Deetz Stakeholder/social responsibility approach to Elaine Sternberg's long term owner value approach. Lets just say that these approaches are very different and you could easily write a whole paper on the subject that wouldn't be the paper I've asked for.

Second, a question about focusing a paper:

I was wondering, with my term paper on advertising if I could incorporate the ethics of the use of women being used as objects to sell products? Or just plain "women in advertising." I also saw the example outline, should I follow it (obviously not exactly)?

The outline may provide a useful starting point for you. Do note my comments concerning the outline as well as the outline itself. To clarify, advertising is being used by you as a genre of content within a medium which I presume is along the lines of newspapers, magazines, or television.

If so, the roles at issue are not those of advertising, but of advertising within one of those media. The women who are used as "objects" in a subset of that advertising are, by my accounting, "performers". The photographer or cameraman who takes pictures or video of them is a "transcriber/recorder". The person who dreams up the ad is a creator. The person who writes the ad copy may be acting in a creator or transcriber/recorder capacity. The person who pastes up the ad from the photograph and ad copy is a content integrator, as is the layout person at the magazine or newspaper who puts the ad in a particular place on a particular page. Someone pays for the ad and expects to get a return on it. Someone produces the ad by bringing together creative and other talent to create the ad. There are people who worry about ad placement (which newspapers or magazines), people who worry about attracting ads to newspapers and magazines, and people who produce and direct the production of the magazine. There are people who carry the ad from the ad agency to the newspaper and people who carry the newspaper or magazine to, let us not forget, people who consume the ads.

Each of these players has a variety of ethical responsibilities, or at least a set of ethical decisions that they have to make, relative to any particular ad and its placement in a particular newspaper or magazine. I certainly have no objection to your using the theme of the ethics of using women as objects to sell products as a centerpiece that ties these kinds of roles together, but remember that each player may have other ethical responsibilities as well.

-- Last edited September 18, 2015

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