Social Marketing: Perspectives and Viewpoints

By William Lazer; Eugene J. Kelley | Go to book overview

When is advertising misleading? When is it against the public welfare? When is it in good taste? Standards of behavior need to be established to answer these questions. The author describes the need to eliminate deceptive advertising on moral grounds and not merely as a response to public pressures. New moral standards may be more effective than the legal structure in reducing misleading advertising.


36. MORALITY IN ADVERTISING-- A PUBLIC IMPERATIVE

William G. Capitman

The Clearwater River, fifty miles upstream from Potlatch Forests Incorporated pulp and paper mill, is, as Newsweek put it, "a scene of breathtaking natural beauty." The Potlatch people apparently agreed; they photographed it, added the caption It cost us a bundle, but the Clearwater River still runs clear, and ran an ad. But at the plant site, and downstream from the picture location, Potlatch pumps fresh water in from the stream and pumps out forty tons of suspended organic wastes. Simultaneously, Potlatch exudes some 2.5 million tons of sulfur gasses and 1.8 million tons of particulates into the air. The implication that the river, as shown in the ad, was the creation of Potlatch is belied by the subsequent photos, never shown in the ads, taken of the situation at the plant and below it. Says Newsweek: "When an enterprising local college newspaper editor pointed out the discrepancy between ad copy and reality, the company responded by cancelling all corporate advertising." Other such incidents and the growing concern throughout the country with questions relating to the social responsibility of corporations all point to the need for a new view of the morality of advertising.

What do we mean by morals in advertising and how can we approach the question? Is all advertising and are all parts of a given ad to be subject to the same rules and standards of morality? There is a need for discussion and assessment of the moral state of advertising now, as well as the establishment of guidelines and rules for the future.

Theodore Levitt, in his article "The Morality (?) of Advertising," has performed a valuable service in raising the discussion of the role

____________________
*
Reprinted from "Morality in Advertising--A Public Imperative," MSU Business Topics ( Spring 1971), pp. 21-26.
Center for Research in Marketing, Inc.

-415-

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