October 26, 2015
Marketing with Integrity.
Is Marketing Evil?
Why Business Ethics?
Marketing to Kids
Question 1: The Federal Trade Commission regulates advertising on the basis of 2 criteria – deception and unfairness. How can an ad be unfair? Who gets hurt by deceptive advertising?
Question 2: Imagine your child/younger sibling was offered a free laptop in school with the understanding that they would see an advertisement for 2 minutes every 15 minutes. What would your initial reaction to this offer be? Is it always unfair to advertise to children?
Question 3: Studies have shown that samples, as well as small gifts and lunches, can lead some doctors to prescribe more expensive brand names when generic drugs are available. Is this type of marketing unethical? Should marketing of products such as prescription drugs be regulated?
Q1. Based on the two criteria that the FTC regulates advertising – deception and unfairness – an ad can maintain one or both in several ways. First, the offer or promotion itself has the potential of being misleading or unfair. Car dealerships, for example, are now required to include inventory stock numbers in the television, print, and radio advertisements to illustrate at least one vehicle, available at some point, could be purchased for the advertised price. This is to ensure ad recipients are mislead or drawn into a “bait and switch” scenario. Another example may be a travel advertisement that illustrates a specific type of experience or adventure. However, after guests purchase and visit, it’s only then they learn that the photograph or advertisement may be misleading. Ultimately, this destroys the trust in a brand or company and has the potential to blossom into litigation for false advertising or complaints to consumer advocate groups, such as the Better Business Bureau. It’s the public, therefore, that is impacted the greatest from false, deceptive, or misleading advertising and the company or industry as a whole that pays the price economically.
Q2. The scenario reminds me a bit of a free Internet service I once used that featured additional banner advertising when logged in through their network. Overall, I’m not sure I agree with the advertising or revenue model. As I’ve shared in previous lectures on the subject, I do believe that there is a time and place for advertising to children. However, let’s assume that this child is using the computer they’ve received or school work, or even personal development. Would it be right for a company to interrupt the child’s learning or education process to present an advertisement? Additionally, the length of the advertisement seems unnecessarily long. While the justification could be that of similar usage of television, because a computer or laptop has a greater interactive purpose and could be used for direct education development, I’m not sure I would allow my child or younger sibling to use or purchase. That being said, if this was the only way to obtain a device for my child to “keep up” with other students or his/her classmates, I would probably significantly weigh the options of no computer, versus one with advertisements.
Q3. This is a great question and poses a lot back to the physician. I’ll start with the last part of the question, in that advertising pharmaceuticals is regulated to some degree, in mass advertisements. It’s why you see disclaimers in television spots, additional pages of drug information in magazines, etc. Up until the last decade, pharmaceutical manufacturers only had the relationships their sales reps had with doctors and physicians to promote or advocate a specific brand or drug. I do believe doctors have first and foremost a commitment to their patients. While the argument could be made that insurance covers the difference between name brand and generics, personally, there is a doubling or tripling of cost for my out-of-pocket copay between a generic, name brand, or non-preferred drug. I would expect that my physician would provide me the best option, not only for my health, but for my financial well being. This is likely a grey area and the good news is consumers can request generics if prescribed the name brand drug. However, consumers need to be 1) educated of the availability, and 2) be smart enough or courageous enough to ask their pharmacist. I’m not sure this type of marketing is unethical, but it certainly isn’t ideal and is probably far more rampant than most of us realize.
Deception, MMC6213, Strategic Communications, Unfairness,