What Happens in Vegas Doesn't Stay in Vegas Necessarily: A Case Study in the Blending of Personal and Professional Ethics in Business

By Case, F. Mark | Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies, January 1, 2018 | Go to article overview

What Happens in Vegas Doesn't Stay in Vegas Necessarily: A Case Study in the Blending of Personal and Professional Ethics in Business


Case, F. Mark, Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies


PURPOSE AND INTRODUCTION

This case is designed to create some discussion as to the boundaries of personal/professional ethics in the information age. The choices the main characters make may seem like personal choices dealing primarily with sex, but there's a catch. The event happens on personal time, but within the context of an important industry gathering in Las Vegas. While on the face of it, the subject matter would appear to create obvious dos and don'ts for the main characters, the fact is that even seemingly obvious ethical choices are not so simple.

In this case, a small advertising firm named Smith/Jones is located in the Midwest and operates primarily as an agency specializing in industrial accounts. Of its accounts, the largest is a manufacturer of component parts for road construction and earth moving equipment. This company maintains almost an 80% market share in North America. Managing this account is a young advertising executive named Brian, who has just arranged exhibition space and produced press kits for a trade show to be held in the conference Mecca of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Along with Brian, attending the conference is the Marketing Director of the client firm, whose name is Bob. He has been under pressure to increase awareness for a new product, the national rollout of which is schedule to take place two months after the trade show. The new product is a redesigned hydraulic system that increases load efficiency, and uses comparatively less energy to create hydraulic force. This new product will be the centrepiece at the exhibition in the tradeshow, and if all goes well, should solidify the positioning of Bob's company as a technological first-mover.

ABOUT BRIAN

Brian is a bit of an anomaly in the advertising business. He grew up in a conservative home (both politically and socially), and when he married, he was sure to marry someone with whom he shared religious and social values. He prefers to live a "clean life," free from alcohol and most other vices. He married a woman who is very traditional; she has delayed a promising design career to take care of the young daughter they have together, with another child on the way. The pressures of Brian's work, together with trying to operate as a single-income family puts a bit of a strain on the family dynamics. This personal strain for Brian is a direct result of the demands of his jobs specifically, a rigorous travel schedule and a ruthless boss who is not an easy person to work for. Brian's boss (Dave) can be unreasonable, inconsistent, and creates a hellish existence for his employees. In Brian's case, these characteristics place immense pressure on him to make sure that Dave doesn't overreact to problems by firing him, thus depriving the family of its sole source of support. For Brian, success managing this large account can have only two outcomes; reward in the form of a large raise, or severe action in the form of immediate termination.

ABOUT BOB

Bob is a seasoned Marketing executive, with a reasonable chance of eventually reaching the CEO's office. To get there, he must manage this industrial brand masterfully, and the current planned product launch is his chance to do exactly that. Personally, Bob is a bit of an old school executive, with liberal social and political views. He married a socialite named Debbie with a pronounced independence streak. Debbie has an impressive career in banking, and is the Senior Vice President for Commercial Lending with a regional bank. Together the couple has three children; one daughter attending a university (majoring in physics), one son in middle school and a younger daughter in third grade. The bulk of the family's income is from Debbie's work at the bank, although if Bob can realize success with the product launch, this balance shifts. Both Bob and Debbie are hopeful, and barring a catastrophe, the couple is set for a gilded future.

THE TRADE SHOW

Bob and Brian both arrive two days ahead of the tradeshow. …

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