What is ethical advertising? Tips for ads 2021

There is a lot of confusion about the definition and role of ethical advertising

This can lead to companies not using any ethical ads at all, which in turn leads to consumers getting confused and frustrated by ads they don’t understand. A lack of understanding also hurts businesses that do use ethical advertising.

We created this guide for anyone looking to learn more about what it means to create an ad that is both legal and ethically sound, so you can avoid making mistakes or being misunderstood when creating your own advertisements.

What is ethical advertising?

As a consumer, you have come across many advertisements that seem to be unethical. Maybe it is the way they use sex as a selling point for their product or it could be the way they use a celebrity to endorse their product. Whatever it is, you have an opinion about them and want to know if that is ethical or not.

What is ethical advertising?
What is ethical advertising?

Ethical advertising, as opposed to what the majority of advertisers do, tries to seek truthfulness in their advertisements and avoids misleading or deceiving the public. It uses correct and factual information which includes avoiding false claims and promises and sticking to what is true about their product. Ethical advertising does not offend people in any way, or target them with certain messages that might spark negative emotions towards the product being advertised.

9 Principles of Ethical Advertising

The principles of advertising ethics are guidelines devised by the American National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and adopted by other broadcasting organizations. They were originally written in the 1950s and were revised in June 2005 to include new sections on interactive advertising.

9 Principles of Ethical Advertising
9 Principles of Ethical Advertising

There are nine principles: 

  • Truthfulness and accuracy 
  • Avoidance of misleading claims and depictions
  • Avoiding harm and offense 
  • Fairness in treatment, truthfulness in documentary or factual presentations
  • Truthfulness in the depiction of individuals
  • Frankness in dealing with the audience
  • Avoiding unfair competitive practices and encouraging parental responsibility.

Why is ethics important in advertising?

The advertising world is changing rapidly. New ways of social media are being created, which influence the way businesses advertise their products, and how people interact with their products. With this in mind, the business world needs to pay close attention to what is meant by “ethics” in advertising. How can businesses, specifically those that advertise products, use this new type of social media in a way that adheres to their brand’s ethics?  

One of the biggest uprises about social media is the idea of sharing. Many creators and followers on sites such as Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook understand that their following is the reason their site exists. Therefore, they are likely to share any content that has been given to them, promoting products without thoroughly knowing the effects of their actions. This is especially true with the idea that “everyone’s doing it.”

Different types of businesses have different codes of ethics, usually associated with their mission statement. These ethics are created to inform employees of the company’s objectives, but also to inform customers on how they are expected to act. Ethical behavior is not required for a business’s success, however, there are businesses that refuse to work with others who do not follow ethical principles. If businesses show a certain degree of integrity, then their consumers are likely to trust them and keep buying from them.

Business Ethics Advertising Examples

Some examples of advertising campaigns that support major business ethics issues include the following:

Domestic advertising, such as a 2010 campaign from Oreo Cookies supporting gay pride (“June 25, 1969: The day the love began”)

Oxfam International’s 2006 “Shoot Poverty” campaign

A 2012 online campaign by Axe Body Spray to promote gender equality among young men and women

Tips for Ethical Advertising for Marketing

Advertising is a powerful tool that can influence consumers to buy your product. However, ethical advertising is not always the most effective. Whether you are issuing an ethical ad or creating a more deceitful one, it is important to be familiar with the rules and regulations of advertising.

Tips for Ethical Advertising for Marketing
Tips for Ethical Advertising for Marketing

Sell the benefits of your product, not the features.

It is more effective to sell what a product can do for people than what it is. For example, an ad for a car might say that it gets good gas mileage, but the benefit to the consumer would be that they spend less on gas.

Do not mislead the consumer with false information or claims.

If you make a claim in your advertising that is not true, you could be sued for false advertising. For example, if an ad claims “Our product will fill your home with the sweet smell of spring!” then the product better be able to do that.

Be honest about the products’ limitations.

Many ads go too far to make the product seem better than it really is. For example, some ads will say that a certain shampoo can make your hair shinier, when in fact it would take at least six weeks of daily use to see any improvement in the appearance of your hair.

Protect customers’ privacy in marketing communications.

These include making sure that there is a clear and easy way for consumers to get a refund if they are not satisfied with your product, using fine print and asterisks to disclaim important information, and avoiding bait-and-switch tactics that might trick consumers into buying a product they were not expecting.

Avoid overhyping your product.

It is important to make sure that your advertising doesn’t go too far in making the product seem better than it really is. There is a fine line between being honest and overhyping your product, so be careful not to cross it.

Ensure that your advertising follows the rules and regulations set out by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides a detailed list of rules and regulations for advertising and marketing. If you do not understand what is allowed and what is not, it is important to research the laws before beginning your


What is the difference between Ethical and unethical advertising

Ethical advertising is a marketing technique where the advertiser does not employ potentially harmful advertising techniques, such as manipulating emotions and personal beliefs. Advertising that does not meet these ethical standards is considered unethical.

Unethical advertising is a type of propaganda that manipulates a person’s beliefs for a product or ideological gain. It can be used in marketing, political campaigning, military intelligence, and medical therapy (e.g., psychotherapy).

As technology advances with each passing day, our society is becoming more reliant on these tools to accomplish basic tasks including shopping, banking, and staying connected with friends and family members. With this reliance on technology comes trust in the brands providing us with the goods and services we need to live our daily lives.

What are the ethical issues in advertising?

The issue of trust plays an important role when Advertising is not just about persuasion. It’s also about making people feel good about themselves.

With the rise of social media, advertising started to change how it communicates with the public. It became more interactive and less in-your-face.

Companies are now trying to make their ads more personal in order to get an emotional response from consumers when they see them. However, this may come at a price for some people when our emotions are manipulated into buying products that we don’t need or want.

4 of Advertising’s Most Serious Ethical Issues that you need to avoid

  • Equality in society (class warfare, poverty, the death penalty, etc.
  • Equality between men and women. (gender prejudice/sexism/homophobia/ sexual imagery..)
  • Children’s Advertising (abuse/unhealthy products such as alcohol, gambling, or tobacco…)
  • Politics. (immigration, racism…)

Code of ethics in advertising

The FTC has a list of what is and isn’t considered ethical advertising. Ethical advertising includes not making false claims about products, not using sexual images to sell products, and not targeting children with ads for age-inappropriate items

Advertising should be truthful while still being entertaining or informative (depending on the product) 

There are also other guidelines that the FTC offers on its website.

It’s important to know how your audience may react to certain types of advertisements in order to stay within these guidelines. The best way to do this is by checking social media sites like Facebook or Instagram for feedback from consumers


The advertising industry has undergone dramatic changes in the last few decades. The introduction of social media and digital marketing has completely disrupted the way brands communicate with their customers. These new channels have allowed companies to tap into the psyche of consumers in ways never before possible. 

However, these advances in technology come at a cost to society, which is now exposed to an unprecedented amount of advertising that is both ethical and unethical.

Hopefully, these examples have inspired you to think about how you may build and implement philanthropic concepts in your own company. Not every business is suited to ethical marketing, this open exhibition of genuine ethics may make or break a firm. 

However, by doing the right thing, brands are not only offering wonderful products but also showing consumers how they wish to make the world a better place 


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