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What is unethical advertising?: An analysis of complaints to the Swedish Advertising Ombudsman 2009-2012.
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Media and Journalism.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2017-1117
2013 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Advertising constitutes a significant portion of the total amount of mediated messages that are disseminated daily through available channels in today’s omnipresent and multifarious media landscape. Because of it’s prevalence, reach and impact, many scholars have argued that advertising should not only be construed as a specific form of market communication – in which it is implied that advertising is foremost concerned with presenting products to potential customers. Instead, advertising should rather be viewed as an integrated part of people’s daily cultural consumption through media, and as such also have a potentiality for impacting people’s minds, culture and society in ways that extend beyond the borders of serving customers with information about products. Advertising does not simply mirror society - it also shapes it by normalising and legitimizing practices, by creating ideals and stereotypes. Viewing advertising from this angle raises ethical questions that lie somewhat beside the main focus covered by ICC’s codes of ethics for advertising and market communication, since they are primarily developed as a tool for self-regulation and for the facilitation of marketing. In such a setting, the determination of what unethical advertising is, becomes a matter for negotiation between the public, who might react negatively to advertising for a plethora of reasons, and those who have authority to deem it unethical or not, based on an interpretation of the ICC codes. Since the practice of advertising ombudsmen is a quite new phenomena, there is a need for research about the outcome of this negotiation so far.

In this paper, we examine all cases reported to the advertising ombudsman (Reklamombudsmannen, hereafter RO) in Sweden, who was instated in 2009, and tries cases reported as unethical by citizens. The question we ask in this paper is firstly what kind of advertising upsets people enough to report them to RO? Secondly, we ask what the common traits are of those cases that have been tried and convicted by RO. Following this question, we ask what the common traits are among those cases who were tried and not convicted. Lastly, we want to see if there is a discrepancy between what is considered unethical by those who report the cases on the one hand, and RO on the other hand. These questions will be answered through content analysis of all the cases handled by RO, the complainers’ motivations and RO’s statements. In the final section of this paper we discuss the theoretical implications of the results, and especially focus on how to interpret the complaints in relation RO’s authority as official interpreter of the ICC code.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013.
Keyword [en]
advertising; marketing communication; ICC codes; The Swedish Advertising Ombudsman; ethics
National Category
Ethics Media Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-28114OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-28114DiVA: diva2:640605
Conference
IAMCR conference: ”Crises, Creative destruction and the Global Power and Communications Order”, Dublin 25-29 June 2013.
Available from: 2013-08-14 Created: 2013-08-14 Last updated: 2016-05-12Bibliographically approved

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Holt, Kristoffer

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Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
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