But... how new is it? And IS it truly "improved"?
October 7, 2008 2:52 PM   Subscribe

Contemporary reading on ethics in marketing?

I work in the ad industry, and love my job -- but I'm interested in exploring the ethical ramifications of marketing a bit more.

I know the standard "all marketers are liars" meme, and I've seen some of the seamier sides of the industry, but mostly I see folks trying to balance competitive capitalism versus moral concerns, and falling in a huge grey area. To date, I can't see much addressing this -- there seems to be an "ethics day" in most marketing courses but not much else -- and I'm curious as to whether anybody has written seriously about ethics and marketing, mostly from an "philosophical but accessible" position.

I'm looking for something meatier than the Wikipedia articles and summaries such as this. I'm not well-versed in philosophy, but I'm not scared of it either, if you know what I mean.
posted by Shepherd to Religion & Philosophy (4 answers total)
Best answer: Syllabi for marketing courses, including ethics classes.

The syllabi should include reading lists that will point you in the right direction.
posted by gyusan at 3:26 PM on October 7, 2008

Best answer: I don't think you're likely to find many things that are explicitly and exclusively about the ethics of marketing. You'd be better served by looking for things on business ethics and considering the lessons there in ways more specific to marketing. As a completely non-scientific indicator of things, I know a dozen or so people who write and teach ethics for a living. All of them have taught business ethics, none of them have ever taught a marketing ethics course. I won't recommend a particular one from Amazon, in part because it's not my field of expertise, and in part because they all cost a ton. [cough cough captive market cough cough]

FWIW, I teach ethics, write on other things, and married someone in marketing. So MeFiMail me if I can be of further help.
posted by el_lupino at 5:51 PM on October 7, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks to both of you. It does seem to be a very niche field of thought, generally getting wrapped into "business ethics," but the syllabus AND book searches have both led to Patrick Murphy at Notre Dame, who I will try to get in touch with.
posted by Shepherd at 7:35 AM on October 8, 2008

Best answer: Sorry that I'm a little late to the party here, but I am a philosopher/ethicist who does a little work in advertising ethics. There are some books specifically on marketing ethics and hundreds of good journal articles. I've just made my way through George Brenkert's Marketing Ethics. It's an attempt at developing a systematic ethic for all marketers. That said, it's not so useful as an introduction to the field (business ethics articles and such). There is also another very practical text, Advertising Ethics.

I don't think those two books are the best that business ethics has to offer about marketing and advertising ethics, though. There are great questions, such as the targeting of vulnerable groups and children, the marketing of dangerous products (alcohol, tobacco, firearms, etc), and combinations of the two (pharmaceutical advertising and marketing) where the literature is really interesting. For most of this, I'd recommend finding an academic library that has Philosopher's Index (or other database that has access to business ethics journals) and doing a search for (advertising OR marketing) and ethics. The literature is actually pretty accessible.
posted by ontic at 8:30 PM on October 11, 2008

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