International Center for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW)

Ethics of Advertisement in Times of Media Change

Project board and coordination:
Dr. Uta Müller, International Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW)
Tel.: +49 7071 29-77984
E-Mail: uta.muellerspam

Prof. Dr. Guido Zurstiege, Institute of Media Studies
Tel.: +49 7071 29-78435
E-Mail: guido.zurstiegespam

Research assistants:
Jutta Krautter, M.A., International Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW)
Tel.: +49 7071 29-75673
E-Mail: jutta.krautterspam

Markus Feiks, M.A., Institute of Media Studies
Tel.: +49 7071 29-75681
E-Mail: markus.feiksspam

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; German Research Foundation)
Project Duration: 01.04.2014 - 31.03.2016

The Project

Advertisement and ethics seem to be category groups and research areas with opposing concerns: The image of advertisement is that it persuades and manipulates the potential purchaser through lies, delusions, whitewashing, and exaggerations – with the one and only goal of selling the advertised product. To cut the long story short: the image of advertisement is to ignore and disregard every ethical principle there is.

In fact, the situation is not quite as bad. There are a number of self-regulatory organizations in the advertising sector. Their central task is to supervise advertisement itself, so that it is in accordance with ethical principles. But there is a fundamental lack of research concerning ethical beliefs, values – and effects of underlying working conditions of advertising practitioners themselves. However, these reflections could be regarded as the most important field of research: It is the starting point of advertisement.

Therefore, the research project “Ethics of advertisement in times of medial change”, funded by the DFG, focuses on advertiser’s moral and basic convictions. Firstly, we will conduct a content analysis of advertising magazines. Secondly, we will interview advertisers and ask them for their opinions. Many questions in the process of production, planning and distribution of advertising are moral and ethical issues.

In times of increasing importance of so called “new media”, and especially highly advanced possibilities of tailor-made advertisement for specific individuals, it is all the more crucial to focus on advertisement on the internet.

To conclude: one of the core hypotheses of this research is that there may be a “moral myopia” on the side of the advertising practitioners, which increases in times of changing media. This would raise important ethical questions, and therefore this project has the aim of making a contribution to research and further development in the field of advertising ethics.

Drumwright, M. E., & Murphy, P. E. (2004). How Advertising Practitioners View Ethics: Moral Muteness, Moral Myopia, and Moral Imagination. Journal of Advertising, 33(2), 7-24.