Ethics in business is a hotly debated topic, at least for those in business that care about ethics. Some company seem to place a high value of being ethical, some try to use their own version of ethics to justify their actions and well, some just don’t care and do whatever they think will get them the results they are looking for. Again, it all comes down to the person calling the shots whether ethics comes into play or not. The Internet is no exception to this at all. Anyone can put up a website and pretty much say and do what ever they would like. There are not a lot of laws to govern the Internet for most things. As crimes are committed online, laws are coming about. Some things like email marketing or media downloading are highly regulated where blogs or penny auction sites are hardly regulated at all. Online ethics and regulations are ever-evolving creatures. Let’s take a look at two examples of what I believe are digital media and ethics.
Let’s start with an example of what I would call unethical online marketing and also a violation of Internet regulation. Email marketing has been around as long as the Internet and is one area that has regulations set forth in the CAN-Spam Act. The first item in the act is “Don’t use false or misleading header information.” Basically emails need to be clear as to their purpose. Now I came across a video on YouTube posted on the Marketing Show TV of an email campaign done by President Obama that the receiver, Clay, was asking if is was unethical and I would say that not only was it unethical, it was in violation of the CAN-Spam Act. The email said it was for signing a Mother’s Day card for the First Lady. Now that seems nice, however once you enter in your email address as requested, you are taken to a donation squeeze page for Obama. Not only was the email not about a Mother’s Day card and for money instead, but also the marketers behind the campaign now have the person’s email to hit them up again. This is what is called “Bait and Switch” and in marketing is totally unethical.
To me, being ethical in marketing is not that hard–a clear message that offers value or a little creativity and you’re good to go. In this next example we have an online commercial for Spike TV. The ad has Darth Vader playing golf with 3 other guys and shocker, Vader cheats and when he gets called on it, well, let’s just say he does what he does with those that question him. The ad is funny and very clear–watch Star Wars on Spike TV. No need to be sneaky or underhanded, just a good laugh that had me thinking I should catch Return of the Jedi on Spike the next time it airs.
I don’t think anyone watching this ad is going to even think about whether or not it is ethical and to me that is a home run. Don’t over complicate things, just do good business and put the work in to make it memorable. What do you think?