Advertising vs. Free Will

Can an ethical person work on an account that he or she is morally opposed to?  It’s one thing to think that a client’s products are not worth the money, or just not for you, but what if you honestly believe that they are harmful to society?

I was recently discussing this with a few co-workers when someone who used to work on the McDonald’s account walked by. His response was that it’s not McDonald’s’ responsibility to educate people on the dangers of eating fast food.  While I am a HUGE proponent of personal responsibility, it’s hard to absolve a company like that of all responsibility.Shouldn’t makers of potentially dangerous products owe something to the consumers? Whose responsiblity is it to educate people on what’s okay to eat (McDonald’s every once in a while) and what’s not okay (McDonald’s every day)?  Just as Big Tobacco is forced to pay for anti-smoking education, shouldn’t Big Food help educate consumers about how to eat healthy?

Another part of my co-worker’s argument struck me as odd though. He fell back on the old “no one is forcing anyone to eat it – they have to choose for themselves” argument. But doesn’t the fact that we work in advertising contradict that?  While we aren’t “forcing” anyone to buy fast food, if we are doing are job well, aren’t we influencing their choices?

Can we really say that people are free to buy whatever food they want and that they should make smart choices when we spend all day trying to get them to buy a certain food and to decide what we want them to decide?

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About Ezra Englebardt
Account planner, digital nerd, marketing guru, tweeter, facebooker, occasional blogger, cyclist, snowboarder, mountain biker, social media junkie and avid reader. CU-Boulder and Boston College alum. Frequent guest speaker in Boston-area universities.

One Response to Advertising vs. Free Will

  1. [Redacted] says:

    By the same token, is it wrong to work for a company that publicly allows themselves to be seen in one light, when in reality, doesn’t live up to the very things people praise them for? What is the appropriate response after leaving said company (on one’s own accord)? Obviously a smear campaign isn’t the way to go, but do you let the company continue to get public praise and free press over stuff that just isn’t true?

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