In today’s society, marketing and advertisements can be seen for products of any nature. The methods of advertising techniques used often relate to the target audience corporations are trying to reach. In accordance with these various styles of advertising, some companies often embellish their products through over exaggeration, or manipulation in order to generate market growth and revenue. In the case concerning Joe Camel, RJR is accused of consciously attracting kids towards using their product in order to increase the currently dwindling market. On the other hand, RJR believes that they are not trying to attract kids, nor are they attempting to influence their decision to smoke. RJR believes that the brand equity of Joe Camel is extremely strong in attracting people of all ages, and does not necessarily mean that young people who recognize the brand will decide to smoke their cigarettes. Essentially, the FDA argues that RJR is using advertising techniques that persuade people to buy their cigarettes because of the false image it promotes. Ultimately, the FDA wants RJR to remove the Joe Camel logo promoting Camel cigarettes in hopes of reducing the number of children that currently smoke.
Essentially, the FDA’s contention is that RJR is promoting a product by manipulating their consumers into believing that they will appear a certain “cool” way to others by smoking their cigarettes. Roger Crisp would most likely also agree with this argument due to the fact that RJR does not really promote any of the actual product characteristics, but instead, a false lavish lifestyle.
Roger Crisp’s identification of advertising falls into two categories. These are informative and manipulative strategies. These strategies can be used in separate fashions, or as seen in many cases, in conjunction with each other. In the case of persuasive advertising, Crisp feels this technique overrides the autonomy of the consumer. When subliminal marketing or similar techniques are used, the consumer is unconscious to the triggers that stimulate them to purchase the product or good, therefore, robbing them of their autonomy of the decision to purchase. Here, the consumer did not act on his/her own will, but rather automatonously. In this situation, the consumers will and judgment was effected through persuasive advertising, in which case they do not themselves choose to purchase, however, there is free action because no one inhibits them from purchasing the good or service. In layman’s terms, Crisp feels that persuasive advertising denies people their right to make their own decisions about whether or not to purchase a good or service. Crisp’s second categorization of advertising, informative, differs because it does not inhibit peoples decisions in the right to choose, but merely informs the consumer about product attributes. Informative advertising enables the consumer to make a clear choice using their own reasoning, without the outside influence of various stimulants. Essentially, Crisp feels that any advertising done to persuade the consumer towards a particular product, with out their conscious acknowledgement is improper and unethical.
Unlike Crisp, Friedman would most likely have a different opinion concerning advertising. Friedman would probably assume that persuasive advertising was immorally wrong, however, Friedman believes that a companies first duty is to generate profits, therefore, advertising would also be done in a fashion intended to maximize revenue. Friedman would most likely leave the responsibility of purchasing decisions with the consumer, assuming that they should know when to purchase. If consumers don’t retain their autonomy about purchasing decisions, society would not necessarily lose. Companies and various aspects of industry would benefit from the purchases, therefore, continuing the aspect of free markets and capitalism.
Within the context of industry and free markets, Friedman’s views are evident in the prior. However, circumstances concerning children and their autonomy as individuals may be considered a different element than the general consumer. Unlike the consumer, children are not completely autonomous. Children have many decisions made for them and are still in the early phases of developing their own personal choices. As a result of their dependence upon parents and guardians, I feel that Friedman may not agree with persuasive advertising focused on society’s youth. I think Kant would also certainly agree that it is immoral and unethical to manipulate children through persuasive advertising.
For Kant, persuasive advertising is immoral because it attempts to rob people of their reasoning, judgment, and therefore, autonomy. As a result of this, people’s progress towards enlightenment and/or autonomy is inhibited and should not be permitted. Under the categorical imperative that Kant suggests, a society that manipulates it’s own population would not be a culture that we could all live in. In regards to cigarettes, it’s hard to determine whether Kant would be any more adamant about the improper use of persuasive advertising. The concept in general is one that is improper, regardless of the product that it endorses. As mentioned in Ethical Duties Towards Others: “Truthfulness”, Kant states that moral worth lies in the act itself, not the consequences. This excerpt can be an analogy because the act of persuasive advertising per se, is the immoral act, not the product purchased or it’s potential negative externalities. I don’t think Kant would have necessarily approved of cigarettes, however, it appears that Kant’s priorities lie in the act more so than the consequences.
In regards to products that do not benefit us in any particular manner, Kant would certainly feel that they are probably not appropriate to sell. Granted, cigarettes are regarded as harmful and unnecessary, however, Kant seems to be more concerned with the use of such products rather than the sale of them. Because of Kant’s ethical criteria, he would probably disapprove of these products regardless of who is selling or buying. However, even though products may be considered “bad”, it is the discussion of what is “bad” or “good” within the public realm that helps us as individuals develop are own reasoning and autonomy.
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