The Advertising Industry: Does It Needs More Regulation?

Evaluate the extent to which the advertising industry needs further regulation


Advertising is an important media sector due to its intermediary structural relation it holds between the commercial media and the consumer goods and service.  The advertising industry plays a role in social communication and holds an extensive influence on public opinion, cultural norms and values (Singh, 2014). The industry has a high visibility in the cultural setting and is an important source of revenue that motivates and enhances the majority of commercial media. A strong relationship between the advertisers, media and agencies has been in existence for a long time, which allows the media consent that can attract audience in order to sell access to the audience (Singh, 2014).  Contemporary advertising has however transformed significantly with the growth of globalisation and affordances of social networking which has led to a shift in balance of power between the consumers and advertising corporations (Lee & Johnson, 2013). Research has also indicated to some extent advertising of some brand products influences behaviour which calls for regulation in the advertising industry. The present paper aims to discuss the extent to which the advertising industry should be regulated.

Synopsis of the advertising industry.

The advertising industry is a multibillion-dollar business operating on a global level and serves as a link between the consumers and companies.  The industry includes all activities that are involved in the presentation of a non-personal, sponsor-identified and paid message to a given audience regarding a product, service or an organization (Singh, 2014).  The industry works to plan, create and handle different forms of advertisement and promotions to meet the clients demand. The industry works independently from its client and offers an outside perception to the efforts of selling and marketing the clients products and services. The advertising industry has expanded rapidly to become a large scale industry that reaches out to millions of people within a short duration of time. The global market is on constant growth and expansion (Singh, 2014). Due to the constant growth and expansion the companies operating both on a local and global scale requires advertisement services as a tool to indulge in lucrative business opportunities across the globe. Globalisation and growth in the global market therefore has led to the growth of the advertising industry.

The advertising industry plays a crucial role in the process by which an economic system guided by moral norms and responsive to the common good that leads to human development. Advertising is a necessary part to the functioning of the contemporary market economies which exist and are emerging from different parts across the globe (Singh, 2014).  The industry is expected to conform to moral standards cantered on vital human development, in order to  ensure it is successful in sustaining honest and ethical responsible competition that leads to growth in the economy(Barroso, 2014). Advertising industry have exerts a positive influence which is meant to enrich the society on decisions based on the content published.  They have a responsibility of publishing  materials of intellectual, aesthetic and moral quality that is offered with the public interest in view and mainly by enhancing and making possible media presentations which are oriented to minorities whose demands might not be met. The industry can contribute to the improvement  of the society by inspiring and uplifting  people to act in ways that are beneficial to the society.

Ethical issues in the advertising industry

The advertisement sector has different regulations that it is required to meet in delivery of its operations however there are different ethical issues witnessed in the contemporary advertising industry that relate to the delivery of the message, product and service as well as the target audience. The ethical issues include

The Advertising Tactics

The advertising tactic used by advertising companies presents the industry with major ethical challenges (Nill & Aalberts, 2014). The message in the public domain is the most critical component of advertising strategy. The advertising industry has been noted to offer misleading information which entices the viewers in to making purchasing decisions. The advertisers depicts the products and services to be health and life enduring as a way convincing consumers into purchasing the products.  Advertising companies use puffery as a strategy to attract consumers as well as in raising the image of the product. The statements made in puffery are usually of subjective opinion instead of objective representation of the facts regarding the product. Liquor and tobacco companies use celebrities to promote their brands. In addition products such as red bull, an energy drink offer misleading information where it shows people getting wings after drinking (Parry, Burnhams & London,  2012). Gillette, a razor company uses puffery in its slogan ‘the best man can get’.

Advertising to children and women

Most adverts have always had a specified target audience where ethical issues arise due to various target audience especially women and children (Boyland & Halford, 2013). According to research children watch the most commercials on televisions which allows companies to strategically place commercials on televisions for products that relate to children (Sheehan, 2013). Most of the products targeted on children are mispresented which mislead and entices the children. Advertisement that target women have been criticized due to the enormous ethical issues linked to them. Women in advertisements are used as sex objects with models being portrayed flawless and perfection of their physical appearance being strongly emphasized (Tuncay-Zayer & Coleman,  2015). The adverts have major mental health concerns for women as they decrease their self-esteem. Women should be portrayed through their natural beauty. In addition, adverts targeting women have been indicated to promote women stereotypes mainly on gender roles. Common products that are used in the households mainly uses women to advertise which consequently generates stereotypes in the societies (Parry et al., 2012). For instance detergent powder companies uses women in order to promote their brands which presents an ethical issue as it encourages gendered roles stereotypes.

Analysis of Ethical Issues in The Advertising Industry

The advertising tactics

The advertising companies have a range of unethical tools that they use to reach out to their targeted audience including subliminal advertising, emotional appeals and taking advantage of the uneducated individuals (Reilly, 2013).  The tactics are not illegal however they have far reaching consequences to the intended audiences as they are misleading. According to Immanuel Kant 1788 theory, the utilitarian-based ethical  value that emphasizes on the increase of social and personal utility, communication actions in businesses advertising are approaches that are used to reach the desirable goal of consumer satisfaction and happiness. Therefore the theory identifies the approach as a creative expression activity that is used to effectively share meaning and relate to the consumers . The theory argues on the diversification and realistic execution of communication tactics to effectively achieve the intended goals. For instance the use of sex appeal, comparative appeal and puffery in creative strategy can be ethically compromised subject however since they can be used as effective approaches to increase consumer awareness on the products and services as well as increase consumer satisfaction and happiness, the view based on utilitarianism promotes self-adjustment over strict, absolute restriction (Reilly, 2013). However based deontology-ethical value, that is fundamentally based on principle and duty, consumers are identified as a goal and not a strategy to advertisement. Deontology theory promotes actions and opinions strictly limiting any communication that misleads consumers and pursues unfair gains by psychologically tricking the consumers.  Therefore is against business operating on a strategy to achieve commercial profits  and supports the implementation of restriction that supports deontology based ethical values. The theory advocated for the establishment and evaluation of system that prevents any harmful impacts of advertising from those who require social protection including children and women as well as individuals who may have poor judgment.

Advertising to children and women.

Advertisements have identified children as an easy target as they can be manipulated into believing different things that may even be fictional. Women, on the other hand, have been on many occasions been used in promoting adverts through building of stereotypical adverts that promotes gendered roles. According to Archie Carroll’s 1979, the pyramid of CSR, organisations have different obligations and responsibilities that they are required to meet including ethical, legal, economic and philanthropic (Carroll, 2016). Targeting children and women through different specified adverts is not illegal however according to the CSR pyramid the advertising companies have an ethical responsibility of doing what is right even when not compelled to do so by the law (Carroll, 2016). Advertising corporations should not target children by using psychological tactics that appeal to them or promote the existence of gendered roles in the society  in the adverts (Gupta, 2013). The adverts should be educative and offer the audience a chance to make a choice based on the requirement of the product and not through psychological or emotional manipulation.

 Challenges Of Globalisation To The Advertising Industry

Globalisation has lead to increased changes in the advertising industries in creation of advertisements that are meant to reach a wider audience that differs in terms of cultural orientations and expectations. Advertisement that work in one market may not work in other markets. For instances in the united kingdom are highly dependent on humour while those in the European market rely on dreamlike advertising strategy (Gupta, 2013). The differences are rooted in individual national cultures and would seem to impede the possibility of standardized cross-cultural advertising across the two countries. The companies therefore have to create adverts that appeal to every individual across the globe.

Due to globalisation companies have expanded into different regions to reach global consumers. Globalization has led to transition of some local products into global brands that are consumed by almost everyone across the globe (Crawford, Brennan & Parker, 2017). communicating to individuals across different cultural background is therefore a challenge to the advertising industry as different people have different opinions, perceptions and values that should be considered while creating an advert to ensure they are not offensive or offer information that does not appeal to the audience (Bae, Rudd & Bilgihan, 2015). Therefore the sector has role to ensure that different perspectives and cultural views are considered and upheld.

Regulations in the advertising industry

Consumer law and regulation on misleading advertising

The legislation protects consumers  from misleading adverts and ensures that trade is fair. According the general rules under the advertising codes that advertisement should not contain material that mislead or that are likely to mislead the audience, by omitting critical information or offering it in an unintelligible, ambiguous or unclear manner especially to children who cannot differentiate fiction and reality (Crawford et al., 2017). The adverts should also not offer opinions on the products and service being advertised.  For instance the omission or offering misleading information of the products prices and characteristics is an offence.

Advertising codes and substantiating advertising claims

The advertising codes offers different rules that advertising firms and agencies are required to follow. The advertising companies are required to substantiate any objective claims and hold documentary evidence before they publish their advertisement so as to prove claims that the customers are likely regard as objective (Crawford et al., 2017). For instance in the united kingdom, without evidence of such claims regarding services and products the advertising standard authority is likely to consider such as advert to be misleading.

Due care view in regulation on offensive advertisements

The legislations refers to the efforts made by reasonable party in order to ensure harm is avoided to other concerned party the advertising should not be regulated to ensure they are not offensive to certain group of individuals in the society (Bae et al., 2015). For instances advertisements should be reviewed to ensure they do not create or promote gendered stereotypes in the society. The advertising company are expected to review the advertisements and define how their advert will be perceived. They should also consider the audience to ensure it is not offensive on the grounds of race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation.

Adequacy of the legislations

Despite regulation on advertisement regarding misleading information especially to children, there are numerous advertisement that run on television which exposes the children to advertisement that constants enticing, and misleading information. Depending on the intended audience  advertisements can be considered offensive or misleading, the regulations and  legislation has not outlined to what extent an advert is considered to be misleading and has been left as a subject of discussion.  The regulating bodies have not strictly outlined the approaches that are put in place to determine that performance of the products is demonstrated before publishing of the advertisements is done. The body should regulate the advertisements based on the content of the advertisement and the intended audience. Even with regulation some of the advertisements are verified for publishing and later pulled down due to public outcry based on the perception from the audience which questions the adequacy of the legislations.


Limitations of Three Regulations

The current legislations and regulations advertisements have various limitations in various perceptions. Regardless of the generalisation of a pluralistic culture setting the legislations have witnessed slow change in acknowledging and accepting specific groups existence values and identities as well as the socio-cultural remnants of ethical stereotypes due to the slow change (Nill & Aalberts, 2014).

The legislations experience challenges in generalizing standards for ethical awareness and limited application of ethical awareness which is attributed to the mix of values from different cultures after generalisation of the global social environment (Nill & Aalberts, 2014).

The legislations are limited due to the application of ethical awareness due to the conflicting, coexisting views on whether creative expression in advertisements is the concept of artistic creativity or concept of a commercial strategy (Nill & Aalberts, 2014).


The advertising sector should not place the centre of its identity only in commercial profit seeking operations, that is centred in a micro-practical perception. The industry should accepts the benefits of deontology and utilitarianism based ethical values harmoniously in order to ensure a balance among the consumers, society and the advertising agencies while pursuing symbiotic value.

The regulating bodies should explore more on the diversified  cultures and their values to ensure they are well articulated in the legislations in order to avoid offensive and misleading advertisements. The bodies should also offer definitive idea of how ethically fit adverts should be developed in order to limit the development of non-ethical adverts.


The present paper has discussed the advertising industry and its implications on globalization.  The paper has discussed ethical issues faced in the industry in relation to different theories and perspectives. The challenges faced by the industry attributed to globalization in the United Kingdom, European as well as on an international level have been discussed. Different legislations pertinent to the industry has been addressed and their limitations in relation to the ethical issues in the industry have been identified.  Two recommendation to the challenges faced in the industry have been offered.

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