The Advertising Standards Authority

644 words | 3 page(s)

Advertising aims to attract a viewer towards a product through various means. The recent ad for the Ghd IV Styler flat iron uses sexual images and a provocative association with the Lord’s Prayer in order to grab attention and thus secure sales for their product. While not all advertisements intend to sell a product, they all grab attention and inform the viewers in order to influence their thought and or action. We see this in billboards, such as a large, roadside MacDonald’s advertisement with a juicy hamburger next to the words “Beefy, Juicy, Hungry.” The advertiser hopes to convince you to stop and eat at the restaurant. Likewise, political advertisements induce action through influencing thought. While they do not aim to sell a product, they often urge viewers to vote for someone or agree with a particular political stance.

In addition to the definition and purpose of advertising, we should consider the ethics of advertising. What is proper and improper? How should a company or individual advertise? Who has authority to govern such practices? The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) claims to defend “legal, decent, honest and truthful” advertising. This sounds agreeable and even noble. However, we will soon discover that more clarity is required.

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The mission of the ASA uses subjective terms that require interpretation. For example, what constitutes “decent” advertising? Some people would claim that nude women would be indecent, if they appeared on a billboard. As a matter of fact, the majority of society would probably have some issue with this, and the ASA would probably hamper attempts to advertise with nude women. On the other hand, I come from Muslim Arab background, where women showing even a bit of skin is considered offensive to many. What many Americans would consider conservative, such as a women dressed in a mid-length, strapless dress would appear indecent to many with my cultural background. The point is, what defines decent and indecent advertising practice? The ASA needs to elaborate.

The Ghd IV Styler advertisement demonstrates the same principle. As a Muslim, I am very sensitive to religious statements in the media. So when I hear the Lord’s prayer in a hair ad alongside a sexual image, I become offended or at least sympathize with those of other religions that may be offended to a greater extent. One problem is the matter of truth. As the ASA intends to uphold “truthful” advertising, I find that associating certain religious concepts with marketing distorts the truth. The Muslim faith is not intended to sell a product. While there are beliefs to spread and products associated with my religion, advocating for sales by means of religious ideas seems dishonest. It is not true to the original and sacred sense of the religion.

Hence, good and bad advertising is advertising that first adheres to clear principles of the ASA ethical code. I have few problems with specific marketing strategies, such as guerilla marketing or ambient media. I actually find them creative and provocative as they press against cultural norms. However, I retain the view that they should adhere to clear notions of decency and truth as mentioned above. For example, when designers such as those who backed Ken Garlands manifesto, advertise on New York City streets or other public property, I get a sense of passion for the product or message. These advertisers, by means of their method, convey an additional message that billboards and commercials do not.

While there is not room to discuss all of the implications of advertising, or the ASA guidelines, recent commercials, and alternative forms of marketing, I have offered clear challenges to the advertising world and examined some personal difficulties concerning current trends. Standards should be firm and clear, otherwise their subjectivity justifies almost any action. Furthermore, religious material may offend some people and, in my view, should be used minimally.

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