The Ethics of Advertisements Essay

The Ethics of Advertisements

The field of advertising has become an established industry in the field of communication, while retaining its dedication of providing awareness of products and services to possible consumers.  Advertising’s context may differ from other media industries such as news and public service in the type of awareness it gives to the general populace, but that does not exempt it from abiding by similar ethical principles its colleagues adhere to.  Advertisers and business establishments, in this sense, should still prioritize the dissemination of truthful information regarding a particular product or service and should apply the concept of corporate social responsibility in the process.

The largest chain of fast food outlets, McDonalds Corporation, for instance broadcasts advertisements in various media such as television, radio, and print, while granting sponsorship to world major events like the Olympics, to entice the general public to consume the food products the company offers.  It has been doubtlessly established that McDonalds food products give negative results to consumers, however, the advertisers for McDonalds only emphasize on the alleged appeal of the products to the palates of its consumers.  Eric Shlosser’s Fast Food Nation (2001) entails the corporation’s stature in the industry has allowed the use of its own influence in deceiving people to buy their products without regard to consumers’ health

The company’s primary focus on children as the target market is another deceptive advertising practice on the part of McDonalds considering that most children are likely to be convinced with what they usually see on television.   The company’s use of child-friendly elements such as mascots and playgrounds to attract children attracts children and possible companion of up to two adults which would increase their profit in more substantial manners (Schlosser, 2001).

In its promotions for the welfare of children’s education, McDonald’s ended up advertising on schools.  The increasing costs for textbook production caused school administrators in the United States to used corporate sponsored educational materials.  A 1998 study has proven that the content of corporate sponsored materials proved to be more beneficial for the commercial interests of the sponsors rather than the educational advancements of students (Schlosser, 2001).

As suggested by most McDonald’s food outlets and advertisements, Big Mac and the rest of the “McMenu” goes good with Coke and other soda variants under its name.  In the tradition of corporate funded schools, Coca Cola corporation is recalled to have offered a sum of $500 as a cash prize to the High School who could come up with the most catchy marketing campaign (Schlosser, 2001).  Instead of inspiring young people to dream big and achieve, the corporate executives of Coca Cola Corporation merely took advantage of children in doing the dirty job for them.

As the precept of Corporate Social Responsibility implies, organizations should put the interests of society by being responsible for the effects of their activities on customers, suppliers, staff members, stockholders, stakeholders, and the community around them (Kotler & Lee, 2005).  In regard to the aforementioned principles, McDonalds Corporation does not consider the factors involved in the principle of corporate social responsibility.  In consideration of its policies on its employees, Eric Schlosser writes that McDonalds does not put any consideration to the conditions and welfare of its employees (Schlosser, 2001).

The documentary film Super Size Me also testifies to the Corporate Social Irresponsibility of McDonalds advertisements.  In the documentary, independent filmmaker Morgan Spurlock embarked on an experiment wherein he exclusively purchases food products from McDonalds.  In the film’s duration, Spurlock ate all regular meals at McDonalds, as a result, Spurlock suffered from various side effects on his physical and psychological well-being (Spurlock, 2004).  The film showed how constant fast food dining gained 5,000 calories for Hurlock that equalled an average of 9.26 Big Mac sandwiches per day (Spurlock, 2004).

Similar to Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, Spurlock also highlighted how fast food corporations such as McDonalds promote poor nutrition for the sake of profit.  Spurlock’s expose (2004) also contributes to the fact that McDonald’s food products promote obesity in the United States by according significance to the company’s failure to provide nutrition information on its food products.  In this regard, McDonalds does not live to one of the precepts of corporate social responsibility which focuses on the commitment improve community well-being through discretionary business practices and contributions of corporate resources (Kotler & Lee, 2005).

In recent years, the McDonalds Corporation expanded its market by adding vegetarian food products in its menu.  In its market expansion, the corporation added more deceptive campaigns beginning with another display of misrepresenting campaigns claiming French Fries as a vegetarian option, contrary to its advertisement’s claims, McDonald’s French fries were cooked in 93% Beef Tallow and 7% cottonseed oil before switching to vegetable oil (Schlosser, 2001),   Furthermore, McDonald’s Corporation was successfully sued in 2002 as Hindu vegetarians filed a case against the corporation for claiming French Fries as a vegetarian food (Petersohn, 1993).

            Advertising’s main purpose is to create awareness of a particular product or service; however, executives and advertisers seem to be forgetting the primary goal of advertising.  This is, in large part, proven by corporate advertisements which tend to capitalize on the deceptive capabilities of advertising.  As such, a simple analysis of a certain product together with the integration of Corporate Social Responsibility is enough to solve a growing plague.


Kotler, P. and Lee, N. (2005). Corporate Social Responsibility. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.

Petersohn, B. (1993, May 5).  Letter from McDonald’s Corporation stating French Fries as Vegetarian Food. Retrieved August 29, 2008 from

Schlosser, E. (2001). Fast Food Nation. New York: Harper Collins.

Spurlock, M. (Producer & Director). (2004). Super Size Me [Motion Picture]. New York: Showtime Networks, Inc.