Case in Point: Product Placement

In the media today, transparency is essential to building trust and credibility with consumers and audiences. A brand’s overall success lies in its abilities to allow their information and content to be visible, open, trustworthy and honest. Another factor that ties into transparency is authenticity.

In the case of product placement, one of the advertising industry’s most popular techniques, brands create authentic environments, which makes situations in the media believable (Plaisance, 2014). Product placement is considered “the practice of embedding a product, brand or service icapture7nto a film or storyline in lieu of airing more traditional commercials (Plaisance, 2014). Product placement is prevalent across numerous media platforms today including film, television and music. Although this advertising method is so popular, why is it considered a problem?

The ethical question surrounding the appropriateness of product placement is disclosure. Since product placement has become so common, it is hard to determine when the appearance of a brand in some type of media platform is a form of artistic expression or simply a way to make money. Many do not see a problem in this type of advertising. However, many consider this a shameless advertising technique. At times, audiences can be turned off from a program for using product placement and diminishing its credibility. Today, different industries are working together to basically create a story around a specific product. For instance, Absolute Vodka got “Sex and the City” to build an episode around their drink called the “Absolut Hunk” (Plaisance, 2014). Although this is increasing brand awareness and somewhat enhancing a show, this practice can be seen unethical because audiences are unaware of the paid advertising they are being exposed to when choosing to watch television programs.

This research is appealing because of my thesis that I completed on product placements in contemporary music videos. In all of my research, product placement seemed very appealing to both creators and consumers. Product placements in music videos have proven to be successful in increasing brand awareness, brand recall and brand recognition (Burhalter & Thornton, 2014). As I was looking at how influential brands in this type of platform can be, I found that people were very aware of product placements, but generally weren’t influenced to purchase brands they’ve been exposed to. When looking at this through an ethical perspective, I now see the division between artistry and advertising. Since music is such an artistic platform and music videos are the chance for artists to tell a visual story, how are viewers able to distinguish the difference between the enhancing of a story or the way to make money?

In the two videos that I looked at in my thesis and asked survey respondents to screen, people were not very influenced in actually going out to purchase a product that they’ve seen in a music video. The two videos included “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga and “We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus. Survey respondents were very aware and paid attention to the product placements in the videos, but this did not link to people’s purchase intentions. It is possible that the lack of people’s interest in purchasing the brands seen in the videos is directly linked to whether or not they see it as an unfair way to advertise to viewers.

References

Burkhalter, N. J. & Thornton, G. C. (2014) Advertising to the beat: An analysis of brand placements in hip-hop music videos. Journal of Marketing Communications, 20(5), 366-362.

Plaisance, P. L. (2014). Media Ethics: Key Principles for Responsible Practice, 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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Code of Ethics: Corporate Blogs

Gaby Dawson, Alex George, Ian Knechtle, Olivia Zacks

Seek the truth and report it – This applies to all blogs, for corporate blogs the most important thing is that they are telling the truth about the products they are likely pushing in the post. If it is an informational post then it is important the company is getting the whole story right. In Whole Food’s “Whole Story,” blog they recently wrote about how food is frequently wasted, giving studies and backing up their cause, they also gave ways to prevent this. It is important the information is correct here or else the post is completely useless.

Act independently – Unlike independent blogs corporate blogs are usually trying to incorporate their own products into their blogs. For blogs such as Whole Food’s “Whole Story,” the company uses recipes and DIY’s to connect with readers. While doing so the company also incorporates products they sell in order to execute the recipe.  Another example includes BMW’s blog, which showcases numerous BMW cars and positive posts about their brand.

Be accountable and responsible – It is important to be accountable and responsible when posting. It is essential to acknowledge how readers are viewing corporate blogs, both positively and negatively. If something is seen as negative to readers, it is important for corporate blogs to understand, accept and recover from this. The best example is when The CEO of Whole Foods wrote a blog separate from “Whole Story” and this blog slandered other products, this was not his place to comment, and reflected poorly on the company.

Respect competition – Although it may be difficult, corporate blogs need to respect their competition to convince readers that they are a trustworthy and fair. If a brand posts negative content about a competing brand on a blog, readers will also view the brand in a negative light. These kinds of actions reflect poorly on the brand as a whole and its employees. As in the example above with Whole Foods, the corporation received a lot of flack for posting negative content about other brands.

Provide content that is relevant and important to the topic – Corporate blogs should post content that is relevant to their specific brand and to their target audience. If an individual is looking at a corporate blog, they are interested in the brand for some reason. Therefore, corporate blogs should stick to certain topics that their brand is involved in to adhere to their target audience and not stray away from the originality of the brand. Patagonia’s blog has been very successful at providing visual content of nature and the outdoors that is directly connected to what Patagonia stands for. Another example includes Amazon and their Amazon Web Services blog, which provides content that can be beneficial to consumers and involves tips and services for users.

Present opinions as opinions – Your opinion and interpretation of events is important and should be shared but must never be confused with hard facts or data. When voicing your own or someone else’s opinion or interpretation, always state it as such. Never present opinion, interpretation or conjecture as fact.

Give credit when necessary – If quoting another source or using another source’s ideas, give credit to original owner of content by providing a link or using quotes. This will ensure that readers view a corporate brand as trustworthy.

Minimize harm – Show compassion and be sensitive to those that may be affected by the content. Show good taste and recognize that individuals will always view content in different ways. Because of this, corporate blogs should be respectful in the words and images that they post in hopes of avoiding misconceptions.

References

AWS Official Blog. Retrieved April 12, 2015, from https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/

Blogger Code of Ethics. (2006, August 26). Retrieved April 12, 2015, from https://fromtheleft.wordpress.com/bloggers-code-of-ethics/

BMWBLOG. Retrieved April 12, 2015, from http://www.bmwblog.com/

Code of Ethics for Bloggers, Social Media and Content Creators. Retrieved April 12, 2015, from http://mor10.com/code-of-ethics-for-bloggers-social-media-and-content-creators/

Patagonia. Retrieved April 12, 2015, from http://patagonia.tumblr.com/

Whole Story. Retrieved April 12, 2015, from http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/whole-story

Almost Famous: Ethics in Music Journalism

Bryce, I. (Producer), & Crowe, C. (Director). (2000).  Almost Famous. United States of America: Vinyl Films.

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When William, a 15-year-old music fanatic, is given the opportunity to interview an up-and-coming rock band for Rolling Stone magazine, he embarks on an eye-opening journey filled with sex, drugs and rock and roll. While on tour with Stillwater, William attends concerts, raging parties and builds relationships, all while dealing with an over-the-top lead singer, Russell Hammond. Throughout the tour, William interviews all of the band members with his deadline approaching except for Hammond. William’s deadline is up and Rolling Stone wants their article with Stillwater taking the cover. The story that William brings to Rolling Stone involves every aspect of the tour: good, bad and questionable. However, Stillwater denies 90% of the story, which ultimately ruins William’s credibility. After the members of Stillwater go their separate ways, Hammond ends up visiting William and reveals that he admitted to Rolling Stone that the story was true. It is at this point that William gets the interview he strived to achieve with Hammond.

Journalists should be accurate, fair and honest when reporting and interpreting information in ethical journalism.  According to the SPJ Code of Ethics, journalists are required to take responsibility for the accuracy of their work and fact check. Journalists are also asked to be vigilant, courageous and use consideration (SPJ Code of Ethics). In Almost Famous, William’s first major task as a journalist requires him to go on tour with a band and create a riveting article. Throughout the film, William is faced with numerous obstacles and uncomfortable situations that he doesn’t know if he should write about or not. All he promised to Stillwater is that he would make the band look good in Rolling Stone. Although he made a promise to the band, William knows the article that Rolling Stone wants to see and that’s what he gives them. William discusses the major struggles that Stillwater faces with conflicting band members and an overly self-righteous lead singer. William writes about sex, drugs and specifically, Hammond’s stunt taking acid and proclaiming to be a “golden god” on a rooftop.  Although William’s story was 100% accurate, Stillwater refused the story to be issued because of its falsities.

But, William wrote accurate information that gave a proper image of Stillwater. Why is this a problem? William guaranteed that he would make Stillwater famous in his article. He didn’t leave anything, which is what journalists are supposed to do. However, William did not take in the consideration of what the image or perception of Stillwater would be created by readers. In an ethical standpoint, William gave Rolling Stone information that could potentially ruin the careers of the band members before they even made it big. Since journalists are required to minimize harm, William should have considered the harm that the article would cause. Journalists should always ask themselves: How much does the public need this information? How will this information affect the people involved? Do the people involved have a right to privacy?

On the other hand, it is important to argue that journalists also have the right to provide accurate and true information to the public. Since this is one of their responsibilities, where do journalists draw the line?

References

Society of Professional JournalistsImproving and protecting journalism since 1909. (n.d.). Retrieved March 5, 2015, from http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

Privacy: A Major Concern in Media Ethics

With the amount of media platforms and increasing technologies in the world today, it is clear that there are many ethical concerns involving the media. According to the research in Between the Summits: What Americans Think About Media Ethics, the most prevalent concerns among Americans include media bias, media dishonesty, invasion of privacy and inaccuracy (Cooper, 18). These ethical issues appear through numerous media platforms such as advertising, journalism, public relations and the internet. It seems as though privacy is something that is very easily broken into when referring to the media and its audiences. It is very difficult for individuals to keep their information private, which is why this is such an important ethical issues. For instance, Facebook changed their privacy settings in 2014, which has allowed them to access users’ smartphone microphones to analyze, songs, television shows and other interests (Forbes, 2014).

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 9.50.58 PMIn recent times, news of Bruce Jenner, Olympic gold medal winner and star of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, going through a transgender transition has been circling the media. Numerous media outlets have been reporting on the issue both credible and non-credible sources. Although Jenner has yet to confirm or deny his transition, The New York Times has reported transgender issues involving Jenner in two separate articles including The Transition of Bruce Jenner: A Shock to Some, Visible to All and The Bruce Jenner story goes from Gossip to News. If the news about Jenner is true, The Times wrongly reported on the appropriate pronoun use and the proper name. This issue has gained a lot of attention recently, but without Jenner’s approval, it is absolutely an invasion of privacy. Although Jenner is a public figure, it is difficult for personal issues to remain private with how easily information is spread today. However, this is a significant ethical issue that demonstrates concerns within the media.

9% of Americans see privacy as an ethical concern within the media today (Cooper, 18). In 1993, The Los Angeles Times discovered that 11% of Americans believed that the media violates people’s privacy (Cooper, 21). These statistics demonstrate how deeply people in the United States are concerned about their privacy. After doing some unofficial, casual research about what individuals think about privacy when it comes to celebrities and the specific issue of Bruce Jenner, people believe that this topic should be off limits when the media reports about privacy issues. It was consistent among the few people I spoke with that the media creates false portrayals about celebrities and public figures. The way the media frames specific stories has the ability to influence consumers purchase intentions, as well as overall opinions about a person. The media tends to leak information and embellish on storylines to get the story out to the masses first, as well as get consumers interested. Many media platforms use public figures’ lives to make a better life for themselves. Since Jenner’s transformation has not been confirmed, credible sources are being seen as untrustworthy. Leaking private issues correlates to the loss of trust and credibility in a news source.

According to The University of Iowa’s Journalism Ethics, it is important to distinguish what information the public has a right to know, needs to know and wants to know. But, how does the media decide what the public has a right to know when the information being reported is not their own? Media platforms like advertising and public relations are required to adhere to a code of ethics, which include the vow to remain truthful. If media platforms do not follow this code, how are consumers and audiences supposed to trust what is being seen or read? Overall, the invasion of privacy by the media, especially when it comes to celebrities, is considered a violation. Although people enjoy staying updated with celebrities and following their lives, where do you draw the line at what is private and what is not? 

Resources

Bernstein, J. (2015, February 4). The Bruce Jenner Story Goes From Gossip to News. Retrieved February 24, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/05/fashion/the-bruce-jenner-story-goes-from-gossip-to-news.html

Bruce Jenner never confirmed rumor, So Public Editor deals with NYT reporting transgender transition. (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2015, from http://www.imediaethics.org/News/10043/Bruce_jenner_never_confirmed_rumor__so_public_editor_deals_with_nyt_reporting_transgender_transition__.php

Journalism Ethics: Privacy. (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2015, from http://www.uiowa.edu/~c019168/168s6online15.html

Lyall, S., & Bernstein, J. (2015, February 6). The Transition of Bruce Jenner: A Shock to Some, Visible to All. Retrieved February 24, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/07/sports/olympics/the-transition-of-bruce-jenner-a-shock-to-some-visible-to-all.html?_r=0

Privacy Issues Could Threaten The Future Of Commercial Social Media. (2014, May 28). Retrieved February 24, 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathansalembaskin/2014/05/28/privacy-issues-could-threaten-the-future-of-commercial-social-media/

My Philosopher: John Dewey

John Dewey (1859133723-004-E88B1C47-1952) was a major leader in the American school of philosophical thought known as pragmatism. Dewey, born in Burlington, Vermont, attended the University of Vermont. It was in college that Dewey established his interest in philosophy being heavily impacted by the theories of natural selection and evolution. From this education and thought, Dewey developed ideas concerning the importance of the relationship between humans and the environment. After graduating from the UVM in 1879, Dewey was encouraged to develop his career as a philosopher by enrolling in graduate school at Johns Hopkins University (Campbell, 1995).

It was at John Hopkins where Dewey discovered three powerful intellects, George Sylvester Morris and G. Stanley Hall and James Hayden Tufts, who became his mentors. It wasn’t until 1894 when Dewey followed Tufts to Chicago that Dewey’s early idealism inspired him to take part in the American school of thought known as pragmatism. During Dewey’s many years of philosophical thinking, he wrote numerous articles concerning the theory of knowledge and metaphysics, as well as publishing two books. Dewey’s reputation grew immensely within society being considered a leading philosopher and educational theorist, along with becoming a respected commentator on contemporary issues like women’s suffrage and the unionization of teachers.

Dewey made numerous contributions to the field of philosophy with his ideas on the theory of knowledge and metaphysics. However, Dewey is most known for his ethical thoughts and social theories that gain meaning from his social aims and values. Dewey explained in Experience and Nature (1925) that the human individual is a social being from the start. Individual satisfaction and achievement can be realized only within the context of social habits and institutions that promote it. Dewey goes further to determine that moral and social issues have to do with the guidance of human action to the achievement of socially defined ends that are productive of a satisfying life for individuals within the social context (Field, 2002). It is important to note that this concept is essential in learning about media ethics. The way individuals in the media deal with moral and ethical issues and act certain ways are based off of human action and the means of living a good life. Dewey’s beliefs in ethical and social theory defined the actions and thoughts humans must take in order to promote human good (Damico, 1978).

Along with Dewey’s ethical thoughts on society and values, he also contributed greatly to the philosophy of education. Described in Experience and Education (1938), Dewey developed ideas for both traditional education (curriculum and cultural heritage) and progressive teaching (learner’s interests and impulses). Dewey explains that acquiring successful education requires education and human experience. Experience-based education provides students with an opportunity that allows for growth and creativity (Dewey, 1938). By thinking about experiential education and opportunity, Endicott College comes to mind. With the requirement of three internships to be completed before graduation, students are pushed to learn, experience and gain knowledge from the real world. Dewey’s progressive ideas have clearly influenced numerous education systems.

Being such a prominent member in the pragmatist thought, Dewey became a very well-known philosopher being accepted and criticized by many. Dewey’s teachings successfully answered the long-lasting questions of philosophy by the use of relatable concepts and ideas. Many criticized Dewey’s ideas and beliefs for being more confusing than helpful to the thoughts of ideology and philosophy. However, Dewey took his criticisms and attempted to clarify his thoughts in his later writing. For example, Dewey substituted “transaction” for his previous use of “interaction” to describe the relationship between human form and environment (Welchman, 1995). Recent trends in philosophy have continued to expand on Dewey’s existing thoughts of his naturalistic theory of inquiry.

References

Campbell, James. Understanding John Dewey: Nature and Cooperative Intelligence. Chicago and La Salle: Open Court, 1995.

Damico, Alfonso J. Individuality and Community: The Social and Political Thought of John Dewey. Gainesville, FL: University Presses of Florida, 1978.

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and Education. Toronto: Collier-MacMillan Canada Ltd.

Field, R. (2002, January 1). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved February 12, 2015, from http://www.iep.utm.edu/dewey/#H2

Welchman, Jennifer. Dewey’s Ethical Thought. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995.