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Indeed, the most established view is that the viewing public should determine the (un)ethicality of ads (Laczniak , p.1) argues, ultimately “the soul of all meaningful advertisements lies in the respect shown to the person for whom that advertisement is designed” and yet a purely viewer- or informant-derived assessment of the underlying structure of ad ethics remains lacking.Access to society journal content varies across our titles.
A Lebanese public perspective is used as an illustrative context for our study, thus addressing a second related gap, or the lack of understanding of ad ethics from different cultural perspectives. An audience-based derivation of ad ethics from the target cultural perspective could therefore reveal the unique combination of ethical characteristics associated with ads, effectively giving rise to a culture’s “fingerprint” of perceived ad ethics. Moreover, since ethics is based on moral philosophies which fluctuate with individual judgement, “there is no such thing as a right/wrong or ethical/unethical ad, there are only latitudes [or boundaries] of ethicality” (Bush and Bush , p. The purpose of this article therefore is not to explore the philosophical discussions surrounding the rightness or wrongness of perceptions towards ads, but instead to determine the pattern of consumer thoughts in relation to ad ethics.
As Drumwright and Kamal () and by default, perceived ad ethics is also bound by a cultural dilemma since the target audience’s “culture filters our perceptions of what constitutes good or responsible consumption” (Belk et al. It is important to note from the onset that whilst previous studies have used the controversial nature of ads as a proxy for their unethical content (e.g. As such, we provide advertisers with a means to determine the “boundaries or latitudes of ethicality” (Bush and Bush ) so that advertisers can become more aware of the parameters used by their target audiences to evaluate the (un) ethical content of their ads.
In doing so, we demonstrate an approach, which enables locally or emic-based derived associations of ad ethics, which advertisers can subsequently assess to manage their own creative process in relation to aligning their content with consumer judgements of ad ethicality.
Two research questions form the basis of this study.
Second, a rationale is developed for an informant and emic-based approach.
Next, we discuss the methodological approach selected, multi-dimensional scaling (MDS) as enabling unprompted or free elicitation of word associations linked to ad ethics, and therefore consistent with an informant and emic-based perspective.
68) elaborate, “Consumer opinion that a specific advertising practice is unethical or immoral can lead to a number of unwanted outcomes, ranging from consumer indifference toward the advertised product to more serious actions such as boycotts or demands for government regulation”.
Therefore, determining consumer perceived ad ethics may shed important insights to guide ad agencies to act in ways commensurate with what consumers perceive as violations of ethical norms.
Finally, managerial implications, avenues for future research and limitations of the study are reviewed.
At its most fundamental level, ethics is often understood as a reference to “just or ‘right’ standards of behaviour between parties in a situation, based on individual moral philosophies” (Bush and Bush , p. By extension, advertising ethics tends to focus on “what is right or wrong in the conduct of the advertising function, and concerns questions of what ought to be done, not just what legally must be done” (Cunningham ) summarised, using extant literature at the time and interviews with advertising academics, the “primary topics” of consumer-based ad ethics inquiry.