Personal Stories

Is Marketing Ethical? Super Bowl and Kids.

Nic McPhee

Marketing products to specific customers can influence a consumer’s decision.  In considering what is consumer buying behavior is, advertisers need to understand why the consumer is buying a specific product, what are the factors in making that purchase, and what is their societal or emotional make up?  (University of Delaware , 2014) Other factors to consider are the personal (demographics), psychological factors (Maslow Hierarchy of needs – Human curiosity (McLeod, 2007) ), and social (opinion, family influence). (University of Delaware , 2014)

The biggest marketing and advertising weekend is this Sunday (Super Bowl), consider this interesting information.  A 30-second spot is $4 million; a 60-second spot is $8 million.  It is one if not if the most watched event in the United States alone.  Last years’ viewing was in excess of 108 million people. (Network, 2014)  It is the time for any service or product to get their message out to consumers.  Forbes states that the average cost of production cost a whopping $1 million.  (Network, 2014) Super Bowl ads have redefined products and helped sales for such brands as Audi and Chrysler. However, if the commercial is considered a failure by viewers and critics, it could certainly hurt a brand.  (Network, 2014) So, can marketing influence a consumer’s decision?  The answer is yes.

Is marketing ethical?  It would depend in what context one is discussing marketing ethics because it is such a broad question.  The American Marketing Association does have a code of ethics to abide by with such codes as: 1. Do no harm, 2. Foster trust in the marketing system, 3. Embrace ethical values.  Ethical values include:  Honesty, responsibility, fairness, respect, transparency, and citizenship.  (American Marketing Association, 2014)  Please note this does not include corporate responsibility messages, green marketing, cause-related marketing (Yoplait Breast Cancer Lids) or social marketing (drugs, alcohol).  (Friedman, 2011)

Companies need to know what type of products would deem of value to consumers.  Hence, marketing research is conducted via surveys, focus groups to examine if a product or service will be viable in the marketplace.  It helps reduce any type of risk, spot current trends and facilitates sales opportunities.  (Administration, 2014)  An individual could argue that marketing is unethical when looking at statistics on how marketing is targeting children, tweens and teens.  It is reported that in 2009, “companies spent over $17 billion” in advertising towards children alone.  Children influence breakfast and lunch choices, software and entertainment.  Also, marketing analysts are aware of what is called the “pester power.”  Children will bug their parents to the point where the parents can’t take it anymore and buy the children what they want.  (Media Smarts, 2014)  Could it be argued that this type of marketing is unethical?  It is quite possible that it is unethical behavior for advertisers, but ultimately the consumer can just say no.

Marketing is a key role to any organization large or small.  Marketing is the vehicle in which a product or service is relayed to consumers.  One could say that marketing even delivers a company message or “corporate responsibility” while selling a product such as the Yoplait example given earlier in this discussion.  Marketing campaigns define a company to the consumer so when that individual is shopping in a grocery store, mall or deciding which auto insurance company they will be choosing, that campaign could have helped that individual make that purchase.


Administration, S. B. (2014). Understanding Your Market . Retrieved from

American Marketing Association. (2014). Ethical Norms and Values for Marketers. Retrieved from Marketing Power:

Friedman, H. (2011). Marketing and Society, Marketing Ethics. Retrieved from CUNY, Brooklyn:

McLeod, S. (2007). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved from Simply Psychology:

Media Smarts. (2014). How Marketing Targets Kids. Retrieved from Media Smarts:

Network, C. (2014, January 29). Yes, A Super Bowl Ad Is Really Worth $4 Million. Retrieved from Forbes:

University of Delaware . (2014). What is Consumer Buying Behavior. Retrieved from University of Delaware :