In this paper, we are going to explore the topic of the guidelines that advertisers have to follow when making advertisements to consumers. There is a spectrum of responses and views that can be taken into consideration here, ranging from limited to no information sharing to detailed, full disclosure of product and service information to the consumer. This needs to be taken into account with the particular needs of the business and how both the business interests can be met, but also how the consumers can be protected. Intermediaries are distribution networks that allow the advertisers to distribute the marketing to consumers. So, the relationship between these parties is unique and interesting to explore. My goal in this paper is to express my view on the responsibility of the advertiser, which is that the advertiser’s role is to provide general information about the product, specific information relating to product use and details, and outlining safety features along with potential hazards, and comparing this viewpoint with that expressed by the authors Machan, Carr and Arrington. 

The first viewpoint which we will examine is Machan. Machan’s view is that of balancing the ethical questions raised in advertising and protecting consumer rights while also furthering business activities. He understands that in many cases businesses may not be required to disclose all or necessary information. In other cases, they may not be required to provide the full set of disclosures or information relating to the product. It is also understandable that businesses need to market themselves and sell their products to generate economic value. This very nature of conducting business is the reason why the ethical questions then get raised. Machan reasonably says that is unrealistic to expect full disclosure and transparency in all cases and that judgment needs to be used. As such, he says that that consumer should also conduct diligence before making a purchase to make sure that they have the necessary information to make the right decisions for themselves. He does highlight that there are critics to his views, such as Leiser, who believe that full information should always be disclosed. Where Machan does see a difference is in cases where products or services would be of special need or assistance to consumers, and those cases he highlights that as for pricing in those cases the products should be priced to benefit / be accessible to most number of people.

  When we are looking at the product, my viewpoint is similar to that of Machan in that the business should find a balance between engaging in business activities while meeting the consumer protection needs. For example, if we look at the product itself, a business should provide feasible information about the product, its functionality, and its use case. We can look at the examples of goods such as the dishwasher, a drink such as Coke, and going to the dentist. In each of these cases, we have different use cases around the way in which the product or service is delivered to the consumer. The viewpoints are aligned are aligned while Machan does go into details in some areas as well such as pricing and general philosophical approaches to these approaches towards business.

In Arringotn’s case, he describes businesses that use puffery as a marketing tactic. He describes puffery as a way of engaging customers in a product that they are already interested in and creating additional hype around it. This resonates with customers who seek the desire or adventure that can be affiliated with the product or service. He describes as a successful marketing strategy. At the same time, he does also address some of the ethical issues that can arise from using the puffery marketing tactic in influencing consumer decision-making. In the second part of the argument, Arrington states that despite what consumers may think, their purchasing decisions may not be completely independent and is influenced by a variety of factors. For example, he talks about how repetition is successfully used in marketing to making a product memorable and creating a sense of understanding around its quality and effectiveness. In many cases, these repetitive strategies influence the consumer subconsciously. The ethical question is once again raised around consumer autonomy, but there are others such as Professor Levitt who state that consumers don’t actually buy products just for their value, but rather the other things that come with it such as hope, adventure, and feelings. He goes on to further explain that a consumer may have an initial desire that can get reinforced through marketing, and that are different ways of figuring out whether the consumer decisions are autonomous or nonautonomous. He reference Braybrooke who says that the consumer tastes evolve and change over time with the information and options that are made available to them.

In my second theme, I talk about the idea of the marketer providing details around the product and its full utility, function, and details. Some examples of these include appliances, food and beverage, and medical services. Our viewpoint here is that by providing the full description and information about the product, the business is providing the consumer what it needs to be able to make an informed decision, and as such it is a more autonomous decision-making process. At the same, there are other factors that influence the consumer decision making but as far as the business is concerned the appropriate information has been provided to the consumer. Again, we can see an alignment in the views here while Arrington explores additional details in different categories of influence.

In Carr’s case, he looks at the lens of business from the standpoint of bluffing, or in other words withholding information. Carr states that withholding information is not necessarily cheating, given that it is sometimes used as a marketing tactic, but he says that it needs to be reconciled with personal ethical views. He compares business with playing poker, in the sense that the player also uses similar strategies to win the game. While the poker game is designed for one player to win the game, the ethical questions arise in business as there are different parties that are involved to whom the business has a responsibility towards, ranging from customers to suppliers to other stakeholders. A dilemma arises in poker as it does in business, as the player states that he follows the rules of the game, and in business the business similarly states that it follows the rules that have been set for conducting business. This is where business conduct, ethics, and rules come together in practice.

In the third argument, we look at the responsibility of the advertiser in relation to the consumer. From a consumer standpoint, the issue of hazards and safety arises which is why the consumer seeks to obtain information about the product and its safety features. From the consumer standpoint, the consumer would like to see as much information as necessary provided regarding this issue. As such, we see the overlap between what the business seeks to achieve and what the consumer expects in return. This is how the argument overlaps with Carr.

In conclusion, we have looked at the 3 arguments made by Machan, Arrington, and Carr to see the questions that arise in the way in which the marketer can advertise itself while holding business principles. In each case, we have explored how that relates to our arguments around what the consumer expects from the marketer. The takeaway from this is the complex relationship that exists between the business, the consumer, and the various stakeholders that are involved, and how sometimes the line can be blurry and individual judgment needs to be used. 

– Anthony Kvyetko & Prepsmart Instructor