AGENCY PRACTITIONERS’ PERSPECTIVE ON ADVERTISING ETHICS IN GHANA

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ABSTRACT

This  study  sought  to  investigate how some advertising practitioners in Ghana conceptualized

ethical  guides by the  Advertising Association of  Ghana (AAG) and  applied them to their  daily

work-related activities. The study focused on knowledge levels of agency practitioners regarding

the ethical guides, their ethical dilemmas and how they resolved them.

The study was underpinned by the utilitarian ethical principle, categorical imperative and the golden mean theory. Data was obtained from 10 key advertising practitioners from four (4) advertising agencies in Ghana using semi-structured in-depth interviews.

A thematic analysis of findings revealed that, the advertising practitioners had limited knowledge of Ghana’s advertising code of ethics. The practitioners’ major challenge was revealed to be the issue of difficult clients, who had little care for the ethical guides. In resolving ethical dilemmas, the  practitioner  not  consult  the  code  of  ethics  for  direction  but  rather  operated  from  the utilitarian perspective. That is, they gave in to the demands of clients in order to maximize profit rather than adhesion the ethical codes.

The   study  recommends  that,  the   Advertising  Association  of   Ghana   should  engmaogree  in

awareness raising and professional development activities for its members and the public at  large. As a way of motivating practitioners to hold higher the ethical standards, the Advertising Association of Ghana can also expand its award scheme to include ethical advertising. Practitioner also operator method categorical imperative perspective and thus make an effort to fulfill their moral duty in accordance with Ghana’s advertising code of ethics.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

TITLE                                                                                                                                  PAGE

DECLARATION………………………………………………………………………………………………….. I

DEDICATION……………………………………………………………………………………………………. II

ACKNOWLEDGMENT………………………………………………………………………………………. III

ABSTRACT…………………………………………………………………………………………………………. IV

TABLE OF CONTENT…………………………………………………………………………………………. V

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION…………………………………………………………………….. 1

  1. Background……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 1
    1. Problem Statement………………………………………………………………………………………….. 4
    1. Research objectives…………………………………………………………………………………………… 5
    1. Research questions………………………………………………………………………………………….. 6
    1. Significance of study…………………………………………………………………………………………. 6
    1. Scope of study…………………………………………………………………………………………………. 6
    1. Operational Definition…………………………………………………………………………………….. 7
    1. Chapter S…u…mm…a…ry ……………………………………………………………………………. 7

CHAPTER TWO: THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK & LITERATURE REVIEW………. 8

  • Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 8
    • Theoraetical F   mework… ……………………………………………………………………………………. 8
      • Utilitarianism………………………………………………………………………………………………… 8
        • Critique of the utilitarian ethical theory………………………………………………… 9
        • Importance of uiatniliistmar             to the …stu…dy ……………………………………………… 9
      • Categorical Imperative…………………………………………………………………………………. 10
        • Critique of the categorical imperative ethical theory………………………………. 11
        • Importance of categorical imperative to the study……………………………. 11
      • The Golden Mean…………………………………………………………………………………………. 12
        • Critique of the golden mean ethical principle……………………………………… 12
        • Importance of the golden mean to the study………………………………………… 13
    • Literature Review……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 13
      • Practitioners’ perspective…………………………………………………………………………….. 13
      • Clients’ perspective……………………………………………………………………………………. 17
    • Chapter s…um…m…ar…y ………………………………………………………………………………………………… 18

CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGY…………………………………………………………………….. 19

  • Introduction…………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 19
    • Study design……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 19
    • Sampling Method…………………………………………………………………………………………………. 20
    • Justification………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 21
    • Sample Size…………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 22
    • Data Collection Instrument……………………………………………………………………………………. 23
    • Data Analysis …………………………………………………………………………………………. 24
    • Chapter summary………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 24

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CHAPTER FOUR: FINDINGS………………………………………………………………………………….. 25

  • Introduction………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 25
    • Informant’s details……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 25
    • Analysis of findings…………………………………………………………………………………………. 26

4.2. Knowledge of practitioners… ……………………………………………………….. 26

  • Considerations of ethics by practitioner………………………………………………………….. 27
    • Feasibility of standardization ………………………………………………………………………….. 28

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  • Practicality of ethical standards………………………………………………………………….. 28
    • Client power…………………………………………………………………………………………….. 29
    • Resolution of ethical dilemmas… ……………………………………………………………… 30
    • Bearing ethical responsibility……………………………………………………………………. 30
    • Other Findings…………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 31
    • Chapter Summary………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 32

CHAPTER FIVE: DISCUSSION……………………………………………………………………………….. 33

  • Introduction………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 33
    • Discussion of findings…………………………………………………………………………………………… 33
    • Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 42

5.3 Limitations…………………………………………………………………………………                  43

5.4 Recommendations………………………………………………………………………………………………… 44

References………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 46

Appendix (Interview guide)…………………………………………………………………………………………. 50

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION

  1. BACKGROUND

The field of advertising has and continues to experience immense growth as a result of increased industrialisation and an ever popular consumerist culture. Like any profession, advertising practitionehrasve  a  huge  responsibility  to  their  clients  and  Bovee  (1994,  p.  21)  spells  these responsibilities out as;

To differentiate products from advertisers’ competitors, to communicate product information, to expand product distribution, to increase brand preference and loyalty and/ or to reduce overall sales cost.

The activities of service professionals like doctors, lawyers, and bankers are often deeply connected to human beings giving rise to situations that pose potential ethical problems. Advertising practitioners, as service professionals are not exempted from thepsoetential ethical dilemmas (Hunt, Shelby and Chonko, 1987). Advertising practitioners are obliged to produce ads that are truthful and ethically appropriate. Failure to do so may gravely affect the credibility of the sponsoring organisation and morally harm the society. Advertising ethics is therefore defined by Cunningham (1999, p. 500) as;

What is right or good thine conduct of the advertising function. conduct is concerned

with questions of what ought to be done, not just with what legally must be done.

The act of mixing facts and art in advertising communication must always be done taking advertising ethical principles into consideration (Sidhul et al, 2015). However, this is not always the case as suggested by Drum wright and Murphy (2009, p.86), who have indicated that, practitioner generally unethical because the temptations of unethical behavior often surpass

any ethical concerns. Putting ethics aside in the creation of ads has become easier because such provocative and unethical ads break through advertising clutter and achieve results (Sidhul et al, 2015).

Some ethical issues in advertising as asserted by Amoako, (2012, p.65) include;

Vulgarity/obscenity  used to go in  consumers’  attention,  misleading  information

and deception, puffery, stereotypes, racial issues and controversial products such as alcohol).

Hyman, Tansley and Clark (1994, p. 5-15), also identified crucial themes  such as advertising of

‘health care’, ‘tobacco’ or ‘alcohol’ and also children advertising, racial discrimination, political advertising  as   well   as   the  use  of  ‘fear’   and   other  ‘advertising  appeals’   are   some   of the

controversiaul iss  es in the advertising sector. Indeed, Burnett et al  (2003,p. 33)  exp   ressed  that,

advertising industry everywhere is receiving high numbers of ethical complaints from various stakeholders. Sidhul et al (2015, p.115), reinforces this point by stating that;

The advertising industry has been frequently criticized for putting out misleading or exaggerated claims in respect of product, goods and services advertised.

Taking an insight from academic literature on advertising ethics, the following views, conceptualization and negotiations on ethical issues were identified. Some practitioners had acknowledged the negative implications of unethical ads on society but did not assume moral responsibilities  for them.  Practitioner  mostly concerned  with  the  legal  aspect  of  the  ads than the ethical aspect (Academy of Marketing Conference, 2013). Previous studies have also revealed that, practitioners viewed raising ethical concerns to advertisers (clients) as uncomfortable and bad for business. Therefore, the practitioners usually operated from ‘client is always right’ perspective (Drumwright and Murphey, 2004).

These reinforce the argument that, adherence to ethical guidelines and considerations in

advertising practice remains a critical challenge.

In  Ghana,  advertising  regulatory bodies  have  provided  practitioners  with  ethical  guidelines to

guide  themthien  production  of  ethically  appropriate  ads.  Industry  regulators  such  as  the

Advertising  Standards  Committee  (ASC)  exist  to  ensure  that  advertisements  conform  to  the

prevailing  laws  of   Ghana   as  well  as  the  code  of   ethics  of   the  Advertising profession.  The

Advertising Association of Ghana (AAG) also seeks to promote the adoption of standards or best practices in the business relations between media owners, advertising agencies and advertisers. Every  year,  the  AAG  awards  member across  all  sectors  of  the  advertising  industry for  their ‘excellence’, ‘creativity’ and ‘outstanding innovative work’ through its awards scheme, known

as the Gong Gong Awards (Advertising Association of Ghana)

2016). The scheme nomination

includes categories such as radio, print, television, outdoor and digital innovation for alcoholic beverages,  insurance,  fashion,  corporate  services  and  many  more.  In  June  2016,  Ghana’s

advertising bill  which is  meant to  help  sanitize the advertising industry was presented to cabinet

for   final   approval   and transmission to   parliament   for   consideration   and   passage

(JoyOnline, 2016).

To  ensure  that  the  advertising  industry  remains  credible  and  beneficial to  all  its  stakeholders,

particularly,gets to audience,  there  must  be  concerted  and  consistent efforts  from  academia,

regulatory and professional bodies on the issue of ethics in advertising

1.1   PROBLEM STATEMENT

Consumers are exposed to many advertisements on a daily basis. The ethical concerns raised about  some  of  these  advertisements  in  turn  raise  question  about  the  credibility and  the  social responsibility of the advertising profession itself. There exists some scholarly, academic dialogue about ethics in advertising, ranging from its sometimes offensive nature (Barnes and Dotson,

1990; Drumwright and Murphey, 2an0d09; Fam Waller, 2003) to its wide social consequences

(Amoako, 2012; Laczniak and Murphey, 2006; Beard, 2003). However, not much is known  about how advertising practitioners conceptualize and apply the ethics in their work (Drumwright and Murphey, 2004). Drumwright (2007) as cited in Reilly (2013,  p.19)  succinctly describes  this problem by stating that;

Advertising ethics research tends to look at advertising ethics from either a macro  view examining its impact on society or a micro view looking at its impact on individuals and most of the time ignoring the meso.

This  apparent  scholarly literature  is  even  more  worrying  when  one  looks  at  the  pivotal

role  that  advertising  practitionehrs     ave  to  play in  improving  ethics  in  advertising.  Practitioners

stand a great chance at influencing the ethical aspects of their client expectation and ultimately

translating these expectation

into advertising communications that is ethically appropriate. It is

therefore  imperative  that  stakeholders  like  mark eacteards,emia  and  policy-makers  engage  in

efforts to understand advertising practitioners’ level of knowledge about ethical issues.

Furthermore, how practitioners conceptualize and negotiate the issue of ethics in their profession will be useful information to improve ethical standards in the advertising industry in Ghana. This study, hopefully attempts to contribute to this area of knowledge.

Western countries (Burnett, Keith and Pettijohn, 2003; Cohn, 2005; Drumwright and Murphey, 2009; Akhter et al., 2011; Moon and Franke, 2013; Sidhul, 2015) to the detriment of developing regions like Africa. This further gap in advertising ethics literature is problematic because the economic and socio-cultural contexts of non-western countries may influence how advertising practitioners in such regions internalise and practise advertising ethics. This argument is supported by Moon and Franke (2013, p.51) who stated that:

…the bulk of this research has examined advertising only in the United States.

U.S. results do not necessarily apply to other countries, because cultural differences lead to differences in ethical decision making.

This present study is aimed at examining advertising ethics from the “meso” perspective, that is,

practitioners’ perspective and within the Ghanaian context of the subject matter. Specifically, the

main interest of this study findings unto the viewpoints of advertising practitioners on Ghana’s advertising code of ethics. The study also aimed at using ethical theories to ascertain how the practitioners applied the ethical guidelines to their daily work-related activities.

1.2   RESEARCH OBJECTIVES

In order to address the above research problem, this study set out to achieve the following objectives;

  1. To explore Ghanaian advertising practitioners’ understanding of ethical standards and their relevance in their work.
  • To find out the challenges (if ), agency practitioners face in adhering to Ghana Advertising

Code of cEthi  s by the Advertising Association of Ghana.

  • To find out how advertising practitioners in Ghana resolve ethical dilemmas encountered in their works

1.3   RESEARCH QUESTIONS

Specifically, this research aimed at answering the following queosntsi;

RQ1. How well informed  advertising practitioner the advertising code of ethics issued

by the Advertising Association of Ghana?

RQ2. How important do advertising practitioners in Ghana consider the code of ethics in their day to day work?

RQ3. What difficulties do advertising practitioners in Ghana face in their quest to adhere to ethical standards?

RQ4. How do advertising practitioners resolve ethical dilemmas in their work?