The history of advertising has been a hot and intense one right from the start, a history which has led us all to this moment in time, when every minute, we are bombarded by millions of colourful images and loud noises, all vying for our attention. As a result, it is no wonder that the human body has developed a type of defense mechanism, which allows it to cope with this assault: the art of shutting out. We subconsciously make associations – similar sounds and images must mean the same old ads we see everywhere, everyday, so we don’t need to see them again, do we?
And the result? Ads are becoming increasingly bold, with old values being replaced by new ones, to the point where the only “moral” limits are those of the designers’ imagination. The idea of using creative, out-of-the-box advertising techniques to appeal to an ever more apathetic audience seems completely reasonable. But is there a line separating original from offensive, or, if you will, assertive from aggressive, in a world where non-assertion is seen as automatic failure?
Let’s look at a sensitive subject: sex and human sexuality. After years of being a recurring theme in a multitude of advertising campaigns, you would believe that by now it has become impossible to avoid being aggressive and still make your campaign stand out from the crowd. Apparently Durex, one of the world’s largest condom manufacturers was of the same opinion: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/articles/295804/20120209/durex-dark-humour-banned-superbowl-ad.htm. Sadly for the company, the ad got banned from the 2012 Superbowl, after being deemed too offensive. Thus, the aggressive approach, which fails to consider the viewers’ points of view and bets it all on gaining their attention, can end up being shut out from the start.
So is there an assertive way of promoting sexual elements? Well, where there’s a will, there’s a way. I for one think that Stonewall’s recent campaign, “Some people are gay, get over it”, ticks all the boxes: http://www.stonewall.org.uk/at_school/education_for_all/quick_links/education_resources/4007.asp. While both ads clearly express their points, Stonewall’s does so in a far less offensive manner: it does not attack the viewers’ senses or morality, it merely makes a statement. To my mind, that is what assertion is all about: standing up for yourself, without backing other against the wall. And why shouldn’t the same rules apply to advertising?
First of all I would like to take a moment and say a few words about our ethics blog – what started out as an uni assignment actually became very fun for us too and we’d love to thank you for your support and especially your comments. Because this turned into something more than a hand-in for us, we will carry on updating this blog with ethical issues and discussions for you to read and share your views on.
And now, it’s time to talk about some copyright infringement. This month the internet was protesting against the SOPA and PIPA bills, two very important pieces of legislation that could change the entire virtual community. But what are they really about?
The ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ and ‘Protect IP Act’ were written in order to fight the online distribution of copyrighted property. We know that should these bills pass websites that would be found in violation could be banned from search engines and internet service providers will be asked to block them for their clients. However, on January 20 the bills have been gone into drafting stage after a boycott organized by several large websites and just one day later it was declared that they have been ‘killed’.
On the 18th January, Wikipedia, Reddit and Google have coordinated “blackouts” in which they redirected their visitors to their local representatives in order to express their views about the two bills. The blackout code was also available on Tumblr and various places online to anyone that wanted to join the protest.
Personally, I thought YouTube would be one of the first to join seeing as they would have so much to lose, however the video sharing website was not involved in the boycott. But Google, the parent company displayed a CENSORED stamp on their logo. They could have wanted to avoid involving YouTube as its input would be clearly biased seeing that it might have been among the first ones to fail if the bill was adopted.
The SOPA act was created in order to protect intellectual property and so, the jobs, the revenue and markets in which they can be found. To give you a much more clearer example – music. Nowadays, there are tens of sites where you could listen to music free of charge or for a small subscription fee. This has been considered as one of the reasons for the recent downfalls of the music industry. The availability of music, through sites, peer2peer or file sharing networks has seriously crippled the business of record labels. By adopting SOPA the owners of the copyrighted material would have had it much easier to remove the ‘stolen’ property of the internet and in this train of thought restoring the industry, by creating revenue and in the end jobs.
The SOPA bill has had some support from the entertainment industry, including celebrities and motion picture studios and production companies. Celebrities saw it as a way of protecting their privacy and image and media giants as a way of insuring their investments. However, how many of us haven’t gone to a movie just because a friend showed us a funny clip and how many of us haven’t posted YouTube videos about an interesting ad or a good music video? And in such way actually contributing to word-of-mouth advertising? The internet has become a massive marketing tool and by helping this bill get passed in reality they could have been in fact undermining themselves.
This is also a matter of freedom of speech. And there have been talks that the US government has planned SOPA in order to avoid another WikiLeaks or quietly take down groups such as Anonymous. Now, my question is – what do you think about SOPA? Were you for it or against it? I would love to hear from you. Especially if you’re a musician, a producer or (graphic) designer and such.
It might be because deep down we are all hypocrites, or it might be the fact that we tend to prefer sweet lies to the ugly reality of truth, but one thing is certain: as much as we like to believe we live in a civilized and moral society, gruesome acts of violence happen all around us, every day. And they happen because, one way or another, they can be justified.
A widespread and little thought about example is torture. Frowned upon as it may be, it still goes on almost everywhere, despite being a violation of basic human rights. Just think of the most notorious cases, those of the American-controlled prisons, such as Guantanamo. If the “war on terror” is a legitimate thing, does it justify applying torture methods to convicted felons (who have tried and maybe succeeded in harming others), if there is a chance of getting vital information from them, which might help protect innocents in the future? Or are human rights inviolable, no matter the circumstances?
In the Western, democratic world, we all agree that the acts of torture committed during the reigns of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, or Muammar Gaddafi in Libya were horrendous and unacceptable. That was part of the reason why we “brought” democracy to their countries, right? But what about the torture of women in developed countries like The United Arab Emirates, or the mutilation of children by rebel forces in many African states? Are these any less infringing on our basic ideals, or is it just not worth the risk of jeopardizing economic interests by interfering to protect the innocent from torture? Apparently the end justifies the means and few feel the need to justify the end.
And speaking of the two bloodthirsty dictators (who happened to thirst for blood long before the USA and its allies finally “noticed”), many common people in their countries still hold them in high regards, despite what the propaganda might have us believe. Why? Because through their acts of torture they became feared, and through this fear, managed to maintain decades of political stability. So does this mean torture CAN be justified? Or does committing these acts alone earn them their fates?
In the end, each person sets their own moral values. What do yours say?
In the last couple of days one video has gone massively viral, having its own #tag on Twitter and dozen of articles written about it. A video that has shocked the world, ”My Tram Experience”.
The woman in the video was later identified as being Emma West and it was these racist comments that have led to her incarceration when she was accused of Racial Harassment.
This video has gotten thousands of responses on Twitter and some of them said she should be arrested and prosecuted, deported or that her child should be removed from her care. But doesn’t she have the right to certain freedoms like freedom of speech? Or doesn’t this speech qualify as it can be considered racially abusive?
Earlier this week, in our ethics class, we were discussing on a related topic; should one maintain their own culture when going to a new place or adapt? In other words, when in Rome should you do as the Romans do?
There is no doubt that moving to a different country is hard, even if we are talking about democratic countries which uphold personal freedoms and condemn discrimination allowing everyone to maintain their own cultural values.
One of the main key aspects of any culture is language, and in Britain, like most of the countries around the world, a resident doesn’t necessarily need to know English. This makes it easier for immigrants to reside within the country speaking only their language, sometimes living in closed communities of the same minority, educating their children in the same culture, with the same values and not conforming or adapting to the British culture. And in this case should people be allowed to immigrate to if they have no intention of adapting to it?
Another important side of a culture is religion. If we were to take the example of France, which is also a democratic country, we will see that in 2004 the parliament passed a law which forbade the wearing of all religious symbols in schools. Even though ALL religious items were banned, even crosses, the law became known as the headscarf ban.
While the 2004 law banned all religious symbols, be they Christian, Muslim or Buddhist or any other, earlier this year France also banned the use of niqabs and burkas in public. Anyone violating this law will be fined or given lessons in french citizenship. Do you believe that it has gone to a point where the republic is denying the rights and liberties of its citizens or is it simply a practical matter of public safety?
But coming back to Britain; by seeing this video and the immigrant woman replying to Emma West, defending her right to be here, to work and still being verbally abused by her makes me wonder is it even enough to adapt?
We all have our own definition of privacy and information that we want to keep to ourselves for various reasons, but in the era of the Web 2.0 is that really possible anymore? And is privacy invasion a victimless crime?
Celebrities are the best example of privacy invasion. To me, the first thing that comes to mind is, when does your job become a thorn in the side? One day you’re hired to do what you love – act in a movie or record an album (contracts which nowadays also include some sort of promotion on your side) does that automatically mean you lose any sort of privacy?
In today’s society celebrities are considered public domain and the paparazzi are going out of their way to give us pictures of the rich and famous in their most intimate moments, such as closed events, social gatherings and even their homes and bedrooms. But is that ethical? Celebrities are just regular people, doing their jobs, having a personal and private life, the only difference between you and them is just they have perhaps a little more money and admirers. Of course, people may not care what you do in your own time, but when it comes to celebrities people seem to go through an unhealthy obsession that creates a vicious circle. Cause who makes actors, musicians and so on famous if not people adding value to a name until it becomes a brand?
Can you beat them at their own game?
Every time Sienna Miller (actress) felt she was being harassed she sued the companies responsible, and I’m saying ‘every time’ because she didn’t do it just once. She sued news corporations, journalists and photographer associations. Made money out of it too. Some celebrities say there’s nothing they can do about it and some secretly enjoy the attention, but Sienna showed that you can take action if you believe you’ve been wronged. So, another question now arises, is it ethical for her to accept the settlements when she is a public figure and therefore prone to these situations?
But it’s not like she’s a politician.
Which leads me to my next topic. If a man is elected for an office or position should every aspect of his life be under scrutiny? Most politicians are chosen by others which means they managed to develop trust with their publics. My question about this trust is, should it expand to someone’s personal life or just their work ethic and accomplishments?
What do you consider when voting for a politician? Does their personal life have any say in the way you elect your representatives or is it just on merit and work?
La Paz, Bolivia. Apparently the place to visit if you’re looking to have a Hunter S. Thompson themed night out with your mates. I’ve just read about their Route 36, a lounge that sells cocaine as if they were selling fries. Not legal, of course, but as one of the waiters says “The owner has paid off all the right people”.
But just thinking about this pop-up shop brings me to a question I’ve had for a while now, should drugs be legalised?
We all know that drugs are bad, but would their legalisation have a beneficial impact on society? Think of all the tax money the government would get and the drop in drug crimes that would follow, but at the same time I wonder if this regularization of drugs would be able to be contained. If the government would allow small doses to be given out every once in a while what would stop addicts to score from illicit dealers again to no end result?
But in this society where alcohol and cigarettes, two just as bad vices are allowed, shouldn’t drugs stand the same chance? Shouldn’t people be given an opportunity to chose for themselves or would they just fall for drugs without thinking?
Maybe it’s not a matter of “all drugs” after all. Portugal, having decriminalized drugs has one of lowest drug usage percentage in comparison to other countries. Not even absinthe is legal everywhere, even though it is just alcohol, so maybe the answer lies in moderation – not all drugs, maybe just a few?
However, even when it comes to legalising marijuana, one of the “soft” drugs, used in several countries around the world for medicinal purposes the opinions aren’t aiming for legalisation. A recent proposition which would have allowed several marijuana-related activities for instance personal usage under several limits as well as giving local governments the right to collect taxes on this substance did not pass in California failing with approximately 54% of voters saying ‘No’. California being a state where medical marijuana is allowed by law.
So, I want to know your opinions, should drugs be legalised? Which ones? Or should we just follow Mr. Dali’s approach to drugs?
The 21st century is riddled with problems: from pollution and the worldwide unequal distribution of wealth, to wars, Lady Gaga and so on. Perhaps one of the worst of these, considering the constantly increasing number of people it affects, is obesity. Thought of as the blight of the developed world, the main cause of this condition is thought to be the modern human’s dietary habits, particularly the high intakes of sugar and salt. (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/)
Several questions therefore come to mind:
If people seem unable to regulate their diet to fit their lifestyles, should they be given the possibility to hurt themselves?
Or should food producers and suppliers be forced to clean up what they’re selling?
Just where does consumer freedom end and faulty self-government begin?
One way of looking at this is to say that customers must be kept informed of what exactly it is that they are eating. And what they should eat. Simply enforcing a standard, comprehensive manner of labelling food products would likely result in a healthier population in the long term. But while it can be argued that transparency and a free flow of information can save us all, how many of us actually stop and thoroughly read every food label at the supermarket? And with internet access almost a given in the countries where obesity is a problem, who’s to say we don’t already know these things, but choose to ignore them?
A different approach to the problem is to say that the companies who make tons of money from producing and distributing unhealthy food to the population are, in fact, the ones to blame. Make them clean up their act, only supply low-sugar, low-salt treats and in the majority of cases, obesity will disappear. All good, except for a little thing some might call economic freedom. After a long history of totalitarianism, few look kindly on state intervention in the private sector, and probably rightly so. And personal freedoms are also at stake. Who can honestly say they don’t treat themselves to some delicious, calorie-rich treat at least once in a while?
This being said, any thoughts?