Ethical values in marketing: an examplary video

Advertising contains, in one form or another, values (or pseudo-values) in its messages. I remember, for example, one TV ad in which two people fought over possession of a bottle of a soft drink – ah yes, how desirable! Fortunately not all of the ‘values’ that appear are of this nature, such as a video used by Coca-Cola,

The ad presents a scene, filmed with hidden cameras near the Estadio da Luz inLisbon, a few days before an important football match between the Portuguese capital’s two leading clubs, Benfica and Sporting. On the ground we see a match ticket and a membership card of a fan of Sporting. The video shows that 95% of people filmed passing the ‘bait’ avoided the ‘trap’, as it were, and returned the documentation to the authorities, earning for their honesty a ticket for the match from the promoters of the campaign. The video was first screened in the stadium shortly before the game kicked off, to a hearty applause from the some 60 000 present.

It cannot be denied that this is an attractive video, one with values, and with a very positive impact for the brand. Additionally, it has reached a great deal of people at a reasonable cost. In times such as these, wherePortugalis going through a time of great financial hardship where the bad news is often in abundance, a video like this is welcomed. People receive it with warm applause, and reward it by passing it on social networks.

I don’t claim any scientific validity for the ‘study’ of the advertisement, nor could I vouch with full certainty that this has not simply been a series of scenes set up with professional actors, although this is most definitely not my impression. What I would like to highlight is the wisdom of presenting such an important value as honesty in an advertisement.

Moving beyond the video, there is a matter which merits a short reflection; ethical behaviour generally produces a reaction of happiness in those who witness it, and unethical behaviour does the opposite. Seeing that we still have honest people among us makes us feel good, just as seeing that there are those who embezzle or kill to steal turn our stomachs.

Advertising people discovered the importance of appealing to our emotions a long time ago, and those who generate happiness seem destined to succeed. Clearly, the cynic might say that advertisers are interested only in persuading us to buy, or in the reputation of the brand, and, of course, that advertising is profitable. I believe that this depends on each case, and that reality is more complex than the generalization. Moral imagination can make efficiency and ethics compatible, and good advertisements which contain values can be produced, as the cited video demonstrates. On the other hand, looking for a good return on advertising spending and seeking to convince the audience are both  legitimate, as long, clearly, as both the means employed and the end sought are good. Nevertheless, there are means which are merely acceptable, while others are excellent. As a fine example of the latter type we have this video.


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One thought on “Ethical values in marketing: an examplary video

  1. Dear Dr. Melé,

    I very much appreciate this week’s topic and your analysis – as usual. I strongly side with you that it is considerably more desirable that a commercial would propagate values such as honesty rather than, say, fierce competition over a “scarce good” (a mere bottle of soft drink?)

    However, one qualification that I would find appropriate in casu is to question what the advertising brand in fact has to do with the value being exemplified by the coincidental passer-bys. Of course, the brand would be all too happy to become associated with values such as honesty and happiness, but where is the connection between consumption of the product and these values? If I recall well, in the “business ethics” course, you mentioned that it is ethically dubious to present such an imaginary link in commercials.

    Apart from this qualification, i.e. the fact that drinking the soft drink in casu is more likely to make you overweight and diabetic than honest, I join you in your appreciation thereof.

    Have a good summer!

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