Advertising, Advertising saturating buildings, architecture, Building, environment, Ethics, Kant, Marketing, New York, Photography, Prjoject, social responsability, sustainability, theories, Times Square, unethical practices, Utilitarianism
Thematic Project of Photography Course: “Advertising Saturating Buildings.”
Location: Times Square, New York.
Pictures – Camera Specifications:
Camera used: Olympus E500, 8 megapixel sensor, and shots in JPEG mode. Pictures taken at daytime in summer, thus no need to use flash. Camera was set on manual mode with apertures between f 8 and f 16. Because of the daylight condition, the ISO was fixed to 200 and camera vivid mode was selected to produce bright and contrasted color level in picture.
Digital Diary of this Project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaIHBuL7S9Q
“Advertising Saturating Buildings.”
Have advertisers gone too far?
The twenty first century and globalisation have brought great change that influences and structures our dynamic environment. This radical and revolutionary change has given rise to new challenges, such as ethical concerns.
Ethics is concerned about what is right or wrong; and business ethics is the application of ethical principles and standard to the actions and decisions of the business organisations. (Thomson AA, et al., 2010)
Is it ethical to post ads without respect to the environment and human core values? Is it ethical or moral for corporations to saturate buildings with their advertisement? The answer to these questions will depend on anyone’s judgment and conscience.
Photography is mostly seen as an expression of communication, information; as a social ritual, souvenir and tourism, and as description of events, situation, science, technology, and surveillance; it could also be a contestation of ideologies, a narration or an Art. Since its inception in 1839, the essence of the photography has always been a topic of controversy and debate around the world.
Susan Sontag, an American writer, filmmaker, and political activist, on “Photography”, has notably compared the camera to a predatory weapon that can hurt, “the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood”. For her the camera is linked to murder and nostalgia while suggesting “the sense of the unattainable” in the industrialised world.
She describes photography as evidence used to confirm facts despite distortion, and believes photography is an Art “as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are”. According to Sontag, “Photographs provide evidence about something we hear about, but doubt, seems proven when we’re shown a photograph of it”.
Then she continued: “The picture may mislead, but there is always a presumption that something exists or did exist, which is like what’s in the picture”. (Sontag, S, 2008)
In this paper, we will use photography as a means of communication in order to corroborate the reality, while investigating the ethical concerns of advertising. Ellen Count, confirming Sontag’s thought stated that “Great photographers bring us good news and bad news. They’ve captured that decisive moment and it is beautiful or trenchant, often both” (Count, E, 2012).
Advertising is an important part of business and plays a considerable role in business growth, consumers’ lives, decisions and choice about products and services. To be able to sell their products and stand harsh competition, marketers need to develop strategic marketing techniques; but at the same time, should they display a social conscience while promoting and advertising their products? Should they have the moral obligation to respect the environment, and not to lie or mislead consumers about products and service? Instead, what has become very popular thinking in today’s business is the use of the slogan “anything goes”. The idea behind that slogan is that advertisers can use any stratagem to arrest consumers’ attention; they believe consumers are responsible for own their decisions, and it’s up to individuals to be on guard because ads don’t force anyone to do something. Nevertheless, that idea is misleading since some advertisers, in order to sell their products, will use psychological or subconscious appeals to violate consumers’ minds by excessive graphic images and deceitful ads. The “Anything goes” concept encourages the proliferation of false advertising, and gives marketers the freedom to do whatever they want. However, when Fair Trade commission states that businesses have the right to advertise freely, but not to lie to the public about their products and services (Thiroux J et al., 2009), they omitted to limit the freedom given to advertisers concerning the excessive ads on buildings and on media.
Ethical standards state that we all have the duty to respect the rights, freedoms and wellbeing of others; and we should all seek common good and not merely our own self-interest and egocentric pleasure, and to strive to make the world more just and humane. (Thiroux P, et al., 2009)
Do advertisers really seek common good? Do they really sell products and services for consumers’ sake?
Marketers push consumers to continually boost basic needs, needs at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid. His concept of needs “A Theory of Human Motivation”, declared that people are motivated first to fulfill basic needs such as food, warmth, shelter and drink, but should soon move on to more advanced needs such as safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization based a process of growing and developing as individuals to achieve individual potential.
In fact, self-interest and competition bring out the most animalistic aspect of human beings, dehumanizing them in order to increase at any cost their profit; thus our buildings have become a ground of marketers’ battles in detriment to the environment and consumers.
Today competition is based on aggressiveness, it is like the battle of the jungle where weaker animals are easily killed by the stronger who eagerly seek to sustain their competitive advantage and ensure their wealth and power. And companies that cannot survive tough competition are unfortunately driven out of business; thus, unnecessary needs are created and consumers are sometimes pushed to buy what they don’t really need. The beautiful design of our buildings is invaded by excessive graphics and images for greed’s intent; sex imagery and attractive women’s body are often used as appeal for unrelated products & services; after all, what people will remember is the scene, and not the product.
Science also assists marketers selling their products. In 2003, psychology experts demanded Emory, one of the world’s leading research universities in the US, to stop conducting “neuromarketing experiments”. Experts believed Emory’s medical experiments on human subjects were unethical because it was likely to promote disease and human suffering, and violated federal ethics rules, by the use of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) as strategic medical technology to identify patterns of brain activity revealing the way that consumer evaluate a product, or advertisement. (Grey, T et al., 2003)
It is also used as tool to capture consumers’ attention in order to sell more products. In other words, fMRI is perceived as manipulating people’s mind for commercial purposes.
However, in an ethics point of view, Utilitarianism believes that people should act in the best interest of all; while Kant (1724-1804) in “Practical Imperative” theory, stated that “No human being should be thought or used merely as a means for someone else’s end, and that each human being is a unique end for himself or herself. In this thought, Kant condemns the idea to use others for experimentation or self-profit; he went further when comparing moral action to duty or responsibility. In our case, Kant’s thought condemns marketers for using consumers and saturating the city for their means; instead, they should have the duty to convey moral behavior in their practices.
Berger et al., warned consumers about the intentions and danger of publicity: “All publicity works upon anxiety. The sum of everything is money; to get money is to overcome anxiety… The anxiety on which publicity plays is fear that having nothing will be nothing… money is life”. (Berger et al, 1972)
I will conclude that marketers play a constructive role in economic growth, but they should exhibit a social conscience as moral responsibility during their practices. A company culture that puts profitability and business performance ahead of ethical behavior is not participating in the development of society. The fair and ethical way to address advertising issues should be under strict supervision of governments, and the breach of ethical standards should be prosecuted and fined.
Businesses should operate for the good of all concerned while encouraging honest and fair practices & competition for the respect of consumers and the environment, and not culturally offensive. Governments worldwide should put strong emphasis to control business activities for consumers’ sake; to protect consumers from false advertising, risky and dangerous products, and unfair business practices (Thiroux et al., 2009); and prevent marketers flooding our buildings and environment, even though it has to reduce government’s income.
Advertising that fosters a lavish life style which wastes resources and despoils the environment offends against important ecological concerns. Advertising that reduces human progress to acquiring material goods and cultivating a lavish life style expresses a false, destructive vision of the human person harmful to individuals and society alike. (Foley et al., 1993)
Thomson, AA & Peteraf, MA & Gamble, JE & Strickland III, AJ, 2012, Crafting and Executing Strategy, 18ed, Mc Graw-Hills – p.292
Thiroux, PJ & Krasemann KW, 2009, Ethics Theory and Practices, tenth ed., Pearson Education- pp57,58, 59, 42, 363, 364, 365,366, 367, 368, 376, 377.
Sontag, S, 2008, On Photography, Publisher Penguin Books Ltd
Count, E, July 6, 2012, Photographer’s Accomplice: Robert Delpire, French Culture Guide, New York <http://www.frenchcultureguide.com/07/photographers-accomplice-robert-delpire/>
Kendra, C, Hierarchy of Needs, The Five Levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, About.com Guide <http://psychology.about.com/od/theoriesofpersonality/a/hierarchyneeds.htm>
Luthans, F, & Doh, JP, 2009, International Management, culture, strategy and behavior, seventh ed., Mc Graw Hill Irwin – p396
Fowles, J, 1998, Advertising’s Fifteen Basic Appeals, Excerpt from Common Culture: Reading and Writing About American Popular Culture. Ed. Michael Petracca, Madeleine Sorapure, Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall <http://www.cyberpat.com/shirlsite/education/essay2/jfowles.html>
Grey, T & Villani, VS & Healy, JM & Rowe, J & Gary, T, 2003, The Latest in Consumer Brainwashing—Neuromarketing, campaning for health, justice and sustainability <http://www.organicconsumers.org/corp/neuromarketing.cfm>
Berger, J & Blomberg, S & Chris, F, Dibbs, M & Hollis, R, 1972, Ways of Seeing, based on BBC television series, Publishers: British Broadcast & the Penguin books- p143
Foley, JP& Pastore, P, 1993, ETHICS IN ADVERTISING, <http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/pccs/documents/rc_pc_pccs_doc_22021997_ethics-in-ad_en.html