Current Ethical Issues in Business

One of the current issues in business today is about the ethics in advertising. There are lot of questions regarding whether or not it is ethical for liquor companies to advertise about their alcoholic products by linking alcohol consumption to friendship, popularity, love and financial success. We can see a lot of alcoholic drinks in television, radio, and print ads today, and we know that these advertisements all aim to increase the sales of these products. They’re free to advertise all they want; however, there are certain issues which seem to be misleading the public.

This is about how these advertisements directly and indirectly relate alcohol consumption to success with friends, popularity, love, and wealth. Drinking alcohol does not equate to any of these, that’s why it is questionable whether it is ethical for these companies to create such advertisements. Looking at the issue at hand, there are several points of view which suggest whether the issue is ethical or unethical. One consideration would be the purpose of the advertisement. We know that an advertisement is a tool for informing possible clients about a certain product.

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Advertising is considered to be a one-way communication that informs about products and services and how the potential customers could obtain them. It also tells about what benefits the people can get upon purchasing the product. We can all say that these advertisements aim to increase the sales of the products (Sumerel, 2003). If that is the purpose of liquors in their advertisement, then we could say that it is in a way ethical. As long as the advertisement serves its purpose of increasing the sales, then it means that people are taking them positively.
If people don’t like these advertisements, then they wouldn’t buy the products that these ads are selling. It is a matter of choice for the people, whether or not they will bite in to these marketing strategies. The abovementioned view is from the side of the liquor company and the advertisers, since they are the ones who benefit much from these advertisements. If we look at it closely, they’re not doing anything wrong or violating other people’s rights. All they’re showing the people were mere clips or shots of people drinking, and the interpretation will depend on the one looking at it.
If it doesn’t illicit any ill feeling from the person, then there is no cause for alarm, or no reason to question whether it is ethical or not. However, there are still other points of view that ethically question these ads. The main argument of those who view these advertisements negatively is that whether it is ok to deceive the people with these ads. What these people want to point out is that alcohol is not always about enjoying with friends, or success about your chosen fields, or a happy love life. It is also the cause of increasing number of vehicular accidents, hate crimes, suicide attempts, and even life-threatening crimes.
Liquor advertisements often depict a happy bunch of people drinking (Narconon of Oklahoma, 2003). This somewhat takes away the possibility of people going wild from the side effects of alcohol consumption. We all know that alcohol directly affects the brain of the person drinking it. His primary senses are often hampered, thus disabling him to function normally. This is why it is a hasty generalization to depict cheerful, well behaved people drinking. The consequence of these advertisements is increasing number of vehicular accidents, usually caused by drunk driving.
There are also instances of crimes which are induced by the consumption of alcohol. These include sexual assaults, and inflicting physical injuries to other people. Looking closely, the negative effect of alcohol consumption outweighs the ones depicted on the advertisements. Crimes, accidents, deaths, and many other untoward incidents seem to overshadow friendship, love and success that these advertisements promote. One of the theories that can be applied in this situation is Mill’s theory of Utilitarianism. A short description of the theory is that an action is right if it is able to promote the best consequences for the given situation.
The best consequences which this theory talks about are synonymous to maximizing the happiness for a person (Hursthouse, 2001). If the consequences promote happiness for a greater number of people, then that action can be considered as ethical. Applying this to the liquor advertisements, then we come up with an understanding that this advertisements are ethical. The main concern of these advertisements is to increase the sales of the liquor products. As long as it fulfils its roles, then it results to the best consequences, thus maximizing happiness.
Another theory that can be applied to this situation is Deontology. If we are going to use Kantian ethics, then we would come up to an understanding that an action is right if it abides or is in accordance to a moral rule or principle, and in this case, we don’t see any violations applicable for these advertisements (Hursthouse, 2001). We can see a moral rule is something that is required by rationality, so if these liquor advertisements don’t have any violation to the rights of people, then it is probably ethical. It is not the advertisements that makes the people drunk, or do anything foolish.
It is the liquor, so the blame on the issue of whether something is ethical or unethical should be pinned on the liquor, not on the advertisements that promotes it. Another ethical theory to consider in this issue is the Virtue Theory, or Aristotle’s moral theory. In this theory, it is stated that an action is ethical of it is what a virtuous agent would do in the same situation or circumstance (Hursthouse, 2001). In this situation, a virtuous agent is defined to be someone who acts virtuously, someone who possesses and exercises the virtues.
A virtue is considered to be a character or a trait which we humans needs to flourish in order to live properly. So if this theory is applied to the ethical issues of a liquor advertisement, we would come to an understanding that the advertisement is not ethical. If we are to have a virtuous agent, he would surely go against the advertisements, especially because it could lead to accidents and crimes. A virtuous agent would always think about the further consequences of something, just like how this liquor could increase accidents as well as the occurrence of crimes.
To sum it up, the ethical concern with a certain issue is dependent on how a person views it. As we apply it to the various ethical theories, we can see that they often contradict each other, thus having both ethical and unethical answers to our query regarding a certain issue. It is true with the issue regarding liquor advertisements. We often face two opposing views, and those views both have weak and strong points. It will then depend on how we look at things that we are able to decide which is ethical and which is not. It is possible that something ethical for us may be unethical to other people, vice versa.
Thus, it is important to have a firm understanding of what we believe. It will be the basis of our decision, and not the opinion of other people. References: Hursthouse, R. (2001). Ethical Theories Compared. Retrieved December 9, 2007, from http://www. trinity. edu/cbrown/intro/ethical_theories. html Narconon of Oklahoma. (2003). Ethics and Advertising: The Alcohol Dilemma Retrieved December 9, 2007, from http://www. narcononcenter. com/PressReleasePages/ethicsandadvertising. html Sumerel, S. (2003). Alcohol Ads Still Targeting America’s Youth. Retrieved December 9, 2007, from http://www. ethicsdaily. com/article_detail. cfm? AID=2144

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