Essay on Business Ethics

Submitted By raman_pabla
Words: 1314
Pages: 6

Phil 215 – Essay (Question 1)
The prevalence and influence of advertising over our lives has changed immensely throughout the years. One of the biggest concerns regarding advertising is the use of puffery, which is the “practise of making exaggerated, highly fanciful, or suggestive claims about a product of service” (June 18, Slide 9). Although legal, the ethicality of the usage of puffery and similar advertising techniques and whether or not they amount to manipulation and behaviour control is a highly controversial topic. I believe that puffery and other advertising techniques are not a form of manipulation and behaviour control and I will explain why advertisers use motivational research to influence consumers at a level below consciousness and how this does not result in manipulation. Puffery, along with other advertising techniques, is not a form of manipulation and behaviour control because they do not violate human autonomy. The notion of autonomy contains four components, the first one being autonomous desires. Puffery does not prohibit our ability to control our own desires nor does it lead us to act on desires that are not truly our own. The decision to pursue the desires is entirely in our control. When we act on a desire, it is because our first-order desires line up with our second order desires, making that desire our own and therefore, an autonomous desire (June 20, Slide 9). Even in situations where an individual is given a first-order desire by an advertisement, if it conflicts with his/her second-order desire, he/she will not pursue that desire. On the other hand, if an individual accepts that a desire was induced by an advertisement, it is in the individual’s control to act on the autonomous desire. This is evident in cases where an individual continuously purchases a product without dissonance (Arrington, 7). This is the result of an autonomous desire, rather than a form of manipulation and behaviour control from puffery and other advertising techniques. It can also be argued that if an individual were given more information and more options that the consumer would make a different decision. However, even if a different decision would have been made, this does not demonstrate that desires created by advertisements are not autonomous desires. Secondly, puffery and other advertising techniques do not hinder our rational desires and ability to make rational choices. In order to make a rational decision, we do not need to possess all the facts about a product, but rather the relevant facts which are determined by our previous desires. Advertising agencies take these prior desires into consideration and then “often provide the type of information that is relevant in light of these desires” (July 20, Slide 14). Therefore, advertising does not prohibit our rational ability and autonomy as rational individuals. It can be argued that ads using puffery do not offer relevant information and make false claims. However, advertisements do provide subjective effects, such as feelings of adventure and prestige, to those who actually desire them and desire to purchase these subjective effects (Arrington, 8). A rational decision for buying a certain product can be justified by the indirect information from the ad because of “the information testified to the subjective effect that the product brings about” (Arrington, 9). Thus, these advertisements provide information that is relevant for rational choice rather than manipulating and controlling our behaviour. Puffery and other advertising techniques do not compromise our free choice. An individual chooses freely when acting a certain way with a reason to do so, rather than because of an irrational inclination caused by puffery (Arrington, 9). It can be argued that advertisements can create irresistible desires which cause an individual to act out of their own free will. However, if there is a reason to act differently that we are aware of then we would do so and