Advertising and Commercial Media

Advertising Ethics

By: Sam Fowler

As modern advertising continues to become more extravagant and competitive, questions of ethics have become extremely important.

Testing Ethics

One test of ethics sought to simplify the evaluation of if an ad is ethical. This is called the TARES test, standing for:





-socially responsible

While this test seems relatively simple, each is a truly complex term when you consider it fully.For example, the word “truthful” is more trivial than what we would think.

Don Knowlton, well known advertising agent raises the question,“How much of advertising is really true?”.

He asserts that most advertising is based on actual facts but yet very little is truly “true” due to exaggeration, symbolism, and playing to the human mind. This is because if a product was only shown in its true light, it would be much less appealing than that golden Big Mac bun with perfectly browned patty, fresh tomato and lettuce with a perfect artwork of mustard on top. Here is a video to show just how much truth is stretched to achieve that golden arched image.

Screenshot 2017-04-03 22.51.05

Advertising to Children

Speaking of fast food, this exaggerated advertising may seem harmless and lighthearted ,but when kids are the most susceptible to buying into this advertising while not fully understanding that line between exaggeration and reality, it can raise serious questions. When most food advertised is unhealthy, that has an impact.

With America battling increased diabetes rates, many government organizations work to analyze marketing to children in an effort to reverse this trend and help kids to make healthier choices.


Children, on average, see 40,000 commercials a year, and commercials are specifically designed to influence behavior.

The Federal Trade Commission has set general expectations to limit exaggeration in advertising.

However, there is no civil penalty for violating these expectations unless it raises real concern in which a full investigation is launched. The FTC Endorsement Guides also state that if there is a connection between the endorser and the marketer of a product that would affect how people evaluate the endorsement, it should be disclosed, just as medical product advertising must include all risks and side effects.

Cookie Monster

Another recent concern raised in advertising is the new installation of  “cookies” in digital media use that tracks what you look at online.


This raises ethical questions regarding personal privacy. Most consumers are not informed of the information that is being collected about them and they cannot effectively opt out of this process. As digital media is everywhere, there is no way to escape the digital lifestyle.

Our likes and dislikes are now digitalized knowledge. Looks like Big Brother who’s been watching wants to bring a gift to the digital party.



Psychology Today

Digital Advertising Journal


Federal Trade Commission 

U.S. National Library of Health

Journal of Ethical Tests in Advertising

Advertising and Commercial Media

The Branding Boost

By: Sam Fowler

Oprah uses Weight Watchers, Beyonce drinks Pepsi, and Tiger Woods wears Nike.

Celebrities seem to link themselves to products the moment they become famous, and even more so, brands link themselves to celebrities.

Celebrity endorsement now makes up about 20% of all television commercials and 10% of money spent on advertising is spent on celebrities. This is pretty impressive considering how expensive this little marketing trick is.

Nike, for example, spends 475 million dollars on athlete endorsements annually. This endeavor typically results in a 4% increase in sales, which is significant in the advertising world.


Celebrities often even make more money from their endorsements than their intended career, which is quite interesting. Perhaps singers are just advertisers that sing on the side.

And their impact on American economy is even more significant. Michael Jordan appears in advertisements for Nike, Coke, Hanes, Gatorade, and more and has an impact worth on the American economy of almost 14 billion dollars.

In choosing a celebrity to endorse a product three major checks must be completed:




Debate about which is most important is still ongoing, but a perfect trifecta is a grand slam. Take Selena Gomez and Pantene (as also shown in my previous post):



Not only is she likable to kids and adults alike considering she falls in both spheres, she is a trustworthy informer as her hair is always on point. Not to mention she is gorgeous which never hurts.

The Davie Brown Index is a rating system that puts these checkmarks to the test on a 1-100 point index on marketing capability of a celebrity. Beyonce scored a 81.5, for example, in 2008. I am sure it has even gotten higher since than as I heard some soft “Beyonce for President” remarks last year as a joke (though she does sport red white and blue).


We live vicariously through celebrities, so much so that the media never fails to update us on their daily lives. In this way, getting recommendations from celebrities oddly feels like we are getting advice from a family friend.


Psychology and Marketing 

American Marketing Association

Journal of Marketing Management

Celebrity Endorsements, Harvard Business School

New York Times

Advertising and Commercial Media

Superbowl : The Super Sale


By: Sam Fowler

Each new media revolution brings a revolution in advertisement. Once upon a time, ads were black and white in newspapers. Such as this gem here from a 1898 newspaper:

hair like this

Then came black and white classic and traditional TV ads like this simple 1950’s ad praising a “soft feminine look”:

Then some color was added in the 80’s keeping that same cheesy vibe:

Now every seemingly annoying ad is a masterpiece compared to old ads. TV has become the greatest master of advertising to to the large advantage of having movement, sound, and great aesthetic appeal.

Here is a shampoo ad from 2017. Just a tiny bit better. With a little social commentary with the modern feminist “Strong is beautiful” statement. Needless to say, we have come a long way.

Unfortunately for advertisers (and fortunately for consumers) loopholes such as time shifting have become disadvantages for tv advertisement as noted by John Vivian.  This has caused some companies to rethink advertising opportunities.

While TV ads are still more successful than internet ads due to existing brand recognition and that newer brands advertise on the internet, it is predicted that that will change soon.Even though it’s clear, due to modern media convergence, that the internet is becoming the new pump house for advertisements, advertisers are still reluctant to switch as they still view Tv as the main platform to build brand recognition.  However, a new future for televised advertising needs to be that ads are entertainment in themselves, as Vivian notes as well, or consumers will continue to find loopholes.

There is one day of commercials, however, where they expand appeal and entertainment of programming rather than clutter it. This is the Super Bowl. Oh the Super Bowl, a true American holiday.


The magnitude of the NFL and the Super Bowl and be wrapped up in this quote from the movie Concussion:

“ The NFL owns a day of the week, the same day the church used to own.”

For one nation under God, we might as well become one nation under football. And  one American value that permeates through this day in perfect patriotism?- consumerism .

Every ad showed during the Super Bowl costs 5 million dollars. 5 million dollars for a Super Bowl commercial is an all time high but it is still a bargain for the viewership advertisements will get. Production costs are also roughly the cost of airtime. The Super Bowl has become a platform for audio-visual advertising to reinvent itself every year to exceed the success of the previous year.

However, It wasn’t until the 80’s actually that commercials actually became part of Super Bowl appeal. While 1979 introduced the Mean Joe Green”Catch Kid” classic Super Bowl commercial, 1984 brought an Apple commercial that changed direction of Super Bowl ads and advertising in general to become plot driven rather than a direct pitch to buy a product or obvious ploy of brand recognition. While slightly terrifying , it does carry a message about the future and plays against its rival at the time- IBM.

This idea of commercials not only boasting a product but also bringing weighted messages and meaning was heightened even more this year in the 2017 Super Bowl commercials. With a particularly heated political climate at the moment and a large mass audience of the most stereotypically American Americans out there, companies saw their shot on screen as being more than just a catchy product boost. Here are a few of the commercials from this year packed with political and social commentary:

The first are two commercials commenting on the political climate surrounding immigration. The second Lumber commercial has direct allusion to Donald Trump’s “wall” he wanted or wants to build on the U.S. Mexico border which has been a topic of heated debate and scrutiny of Trump

The last one titled “Daughter” brings feminism to the gaps between a male dominated game and caters to a male audience while promoting gender equality in a powerful way. Now thats no silly coke or pepsi commercial from the 70’s or 80’s.

Advertisements are becoming not only a consumer tool but a social tool to sell ideologies. Milton had a theory of the marketplace of ideas.Milton’s marketplace is now one in which modern television ads shine beautifully .

And now for your viewing pleasure after a long read- the most adorable Super Bowl ad out there.

Sources used:

Time Magazine

Forbes Magazine

John Vivian on Mass Communication

Internet Versus Television Advertising