Ethics can be defined as the rules of conduct or moral principles of a particular group/culture, though its definition can differ from one person to the next. When it comes to advertising, this same sentiment holds true. Depicting a crucified Christ to sell bicycle gear may be an acceptable expression of the advertiser’s “passion” for its business for some, but an offensive appropration of a religious icon for others.
Advertising is always striving to push the boundaries of acceptance and tradition, as all avenues of artistic expression do. But since advertising is often a much more public and accessible medium of expression than some music or art, advertisers must constantly remind themselves of ethics and decide whether the message of the ad is worth sacrificing public opinion or trust. In some cases, the loss of a few ultra-conservative consumers may be a fine trade for an ad that impacted and resonated with millions more. In other cases, it’s just not worth the backlash.
I consider myself to be pretty liberal in my views, but this anti-smoking ad is an obvious connection to the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.
I will admit, smoking is a serious and life-threatening issue, but putting an advertisement on the same level as a horrific, nationally, politically, and socially life-altering event is offensive, and an affront to every American who experienced the tragedy of that day. Topics that inspire strong, negative personal opinions or associations are better left out of the often humorous, joking world of advertising.