Sunday, July 01, 2001

The Ethics of Alpha Bits

Having read my response in a chat room regarding the ethics of working on various marketing accounts, the editors of CREATIVITY magazine asked me to re-package and contribute my thoughts to the June 2001 issue.

They titled the article:

Originally Published in Creativity Magazine, June 2001

Under what circumstances will one person decline to work on brand or product category based on a set of moral or ethical beliefs? A cursory examination of virtually every single brand out there uncovers a yet another moral dilemma for the philosophers in our midst.

Many in our business already to decline to work on tobacco advertising because of the health issues posed by cigarettes. But who feels so strongly about not working for a tobacco company that they would also decline Capri Sun, Country Time Lemonade, Crystal Light, Kool-Ade, Alpha Bits, Frosted Shredded Wheat, Grape Nuts, Oreos, Raisin Brand and Velveeta –or the umpteen other fine products brought to you by the folks at Phillip Morris.

Is there anyone out there who refused to worked on a certain alcoholic beverage because the frogs reminded you too much of Joe Camel? Is working n a red wine OK because it might emulsify fats in your bloodstream? Or is that still questionable, because overuse could contribute to long-term liver damage?

Have those of you concerned about global warming considered this issue when producing a car ad? Give the origins of the VW Bug, does anyone out there still have misgivings about the brand? If you have any concerns about colon cancer, should you really be working on products that feature refined white flour as their primary ingredient? If you’re concerned about cholesterol, should you really be doing “Got Milk?”, Kraft singles or any other kind of dairy product (excluding skim milk, of course)?

Does anyone with a dentist (or a diabetic) in the family object to working on a product that contains sugar? Does anyone working exclusively in print have a problem with his or her role in the continued deforestation of the Pacific Northwest? Are there any vegetarians who feel comfortable working on a McDonald’s spot?

Is there anyone out there who would decline to work on a specific brand but think it’s OK to then watch TV programs sponsored by that same brand? Are anyone’s convictions so strong that they’ve requested divestiture of objectionable companies from the portfolios of companies they’ like to work with (or their pension plans?)?

Will you, the vendor, work with an advertising agency on a seemingly innocuous product knowing that the very same agency has won a multi-million dollar campaign to promote a product you strongly object to?

Can't it be said that consumers must take some responsibility for the choices they make? Or are those brains ours, for the taking?