The Fine Line of Ethics

With the world getting smaller through means of technology and screen interface, what people see matters. An advertiser must take into account all perspectives of society when deciding what type of media campaigns they put out. Digital media has taken over the modern age. Advertising specifically carries great power and influence over their audiences. Throughout history we can see the types of influence media can play in a culture.

The 2016 Presidential Election proved the influence digital media can have. Millions of dollars were put into strategically placed ads that either slandered or promoted a candidate. As a result the political atmosphere ignited social media platforms. Digital media allowed the candidates to put more out in the public eye than past elections and at a higher rate. Coincidently this election also questioned the ethics of some candidates for the type of ads they put out. Such an ad was put out by the NRA critiquing Hillary Clinton for things outside the campaign realm. As someone that can greatly influence society it is important to follow a code of ethics meant to maintain integrity of all parties.


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In order to remain ethical in the advertising world, you must be able to establish a fine line between ethical and unethical advertising. An advertising goal is to promote the product in a positive light that follows the company’s ethical standards. However, if that fine line is crossed by said company, I would stand by my own ethical code and act accordingly. In order to make these ethical advertising decisions, all marketers should adhere to some rules to ensure they don’t cross that line.


The most important aspect of advertising ethically is honesty. Honesty encompasses having the right intentions and steering clear of any hidden agendas. Honesty also means you must make sure you’re never misrepresenting any parts of a product or hiding any negative aspects of the product. A rule I will implement for myself is to look at each ad produced with a level of sensitivity. No ads should be released that intentionally hurt the feelings of anyone. Despite personal preferences or beliefs, all ads should be respectful and sensitive to whatever audience they may reach.

Pictured below is a digital advertisement for Nivea. The tagline reads “White is Purity” which received quite the backlash. Their caption, “Keep it clean, keep bright. Don’t let anything ruin it, #Invisible.” Many people said that the advertisement was racist since it promoted whiter skin. The ad was quickly removed after the brutal criticism. Ethically, this ad violates my standing on sensitivity and passively promotes a specific race. The advertiser who published this ad did not take into account the holistic interpretation of the work, and because of that, they were instantly scrutinized.

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It is clear the impact digital media can play in society. Advertising encompasses many parts of society and should be given the respect it deserves. The power of an advertisement should have to pass a check list of ethical requirements. With digital advertising comes the potential to reach millions of people with each message being sent. It is up to each marketer or advertiser to make sure their work aligns with their ethical standards.