“Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your family to read. You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine.”–David Ogilvy
I love looking at billboard, newspaper, commercial and tv ads. It gives life to the products we usually buy and/or consume. It tells you a relatable, funny, or tearjerker story. Sometimes, the ads just entice you to buy because of one word, SALE. Other EDSA ads use name recall, pictures and interesting animations to catch the viewers’ attention or readers. But in marketing, we do not look at how it catches our attention or how the marketing strategy works to the company’s advantage. From the business ethics perspective, we must scrutinize why it is marketed, how it is marketed, is the pricing fair, etc. We deep dive into the greater sense of how’s and why’s of the human psyche.
While I am teaching Philosophy in the SHS, I became more curious about the questions in life, business and the human person. When we talk about the philosophy of business, we always investigate how we should be more profitable in the long run while still being beneficial to society. This profitability sustains the business and makes it the primary driver to expand more. One way to expand and grow your business is to do marketing strategies targeted to the primary and secondary markets. According to some marketing specialists, you must catch their attention. Whatever it takes. Once your attention is caught, people will start talking about it. Publicity, for them, is the name of the game. Bad publicity is still publicity, as they say.
After the discussion on the ethics of marketing, I realized how most products make unethical marketing strategies just for them to promote their products. The classic ad bannered the statement is “Nakatikim ka na ba ng Kinse Años?”
Okay, let us dissect this product. In early 2004, Napoleon Brandy re-introduced “Napoleon Quince,” a brandy aged 15 years in their warehouses. Napoleon is one of the best local brandies, and this product solidified its hold as a good producer of liquor. So, what is wrong with the ad? If you will look at it, there is already a sexual connotation. Not only that, but we are talking about a minor-sounding sexual connotation.
Banking on being a male-dominant culture, the company believes it will get good sales on its prime taste while having a “play of words.” This raised the ire of several activists, feminists and conservatives in society. They believe that this is a terrible marketing ploy of the company. Critics condoned the tone of how this was marketed. I remember seeing this when I was a kid.
Back then, I did not understand what it meant. I just inferred that “quince” sounds like “kinse,” so it must be referring to the brandy. But when I saw this again several years later, I was shaking my head and wondered how this ad passed through the government’s standards.
Another ad that drew ire from the critics is GlutaMax’s ad on apparent discrimination against “kayumanggi” looking women. The brand claimed that being fair-skinned not just means they are beautiful, but they get certain perks and privileges in society. This caused outrage in the internet and feminist circles, suggesting that the billboard is extremely insensitive and discriminatory. And as we know, Filipinos are historically kayumanggi. This really did not sit well with most people. GlutaMax apologized and took down the ads after posting it just a few weeks.
There are still a lot of ads that did not pass the sensory test. The bottom line is that we must be vigilant as managers on the sensitivity of some topics, including sexual connotations, gender, racial sensitivities and religions. We must uphold our personal values. As Mr. Ogilvy said in my opening, you have to ask yourself if you would like your family to see this. If your answer is unsure or flat out no, trust it. They would not like it too.
The author is an MBA student at the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business, De La Salle University. This article is part of his blog, a requirement of the course, Lasallian Business Leadership, Ethics, and CSR.
The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of De La Salle University, its faculty, and its administrators.