How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying: Ethical Analysis

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying [Motion picture]. (1967). USA: Mirisch Corporation.

how to succeed in business

How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying was directed by David Smith and is based on the 1961 musical that is in turn based on the book by Sheperd Mead. The film is based in 1967 corporate America. J. Pierpont Finch is a window washer who buys the book How To Succeed in Business, and by doing so begins to climb the corporate ladder. The tactics in the book are questionable at best but help him rise to chairman of the board. The core ethical dilemma posed by the film is person gain at the expense of others. The book directs J. Pierpont Finch to lie, steal, and pass blame in order to get ahead of his colleagues. Finch, with the help of this ethically questionable book rises from a window washer to vice president of advertising.

Finch uses many unethical tactics in order to rise through the company. In one part he learns that the president of the company is making advances toward a new employee, Finch quickly uses this information to move up in the corporation. The president’s nephew also tries to use this information to his advantage, however in the end Finch beats him to the job of chairman of the board. Using the secrets of others for personal gain is obviously not something to do in personal or professional life.


Finch uses many more of the unethical advice form the book in order to move up in the company. One of the first things he does is talk his way into working in the mailroom, then from there gains the level of executive. This is unethical because Finch stole the job of someone who was more qualified than him. The company was unethical in this situation as well because they were not just in their promotions. Finch is able to move up faster than anyone else, which is not fair to the other employees of the company. Once Finch gains the position of executive he manipulates more employees to get to the top, including the CEO. Finch fakes his hours and pretends to have been working late into the night when he had not. He fakes pulling all nighters in order to look better. Lying is obviously unethical, especially when doing it for personal gain over someone. Finch can also be seen spying on his colleagues throughout the film, which is an obvious unethical invasion of their privacy.

Case in Point: Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty


Many women were inspired to see the Dove campaign for real beauty, however it was not as authentic as it appeared to be. The campaign included many videos, billboards, and various other forms of advertisements to show how real everyday women are beautiful just the way they are. One of the most popular videos is available above, it shows how much a person is altered after their photo-shoot ends. Many of the videos featured in the campaign have gone viral. Dove had created a campaign for women to raise their self-esteem and the beauty of real women, however even the women in the advertisements have been Photoshopped by an expert.

Pascal Dangin is the master of photo retouching that said, “Do you know how much retouching was on that?” about the campaign. Personally I think it is very unethical to emphasize the beauty of everyday women but then use-altered images in the campaigns. When Dove promotes real beauty but doesn’t portray it in their ads they are not being transparent. I think Dove should apologize and disclose to viewers just how much Photoshop was used in their ads.I think many people actually do (or did at one time) believe these women were natural and had no retouching done at all. It is ironic that a campaign so focused on natural beauty would include Photoshopped images. No one knows for sure how much these images were altered but even altering them in anyway comprises the validity of the messaging that Dove wanted. 

The real beauty advertising campaign was created after research showed that only 2% of women around the world described themselves as beautiful. How would these women feel if they were then exposed to the campaign and told that the women used were in fact altered in some way? It’s contradictory to what the campaign is trying to show. How can you expect women to feel beautiful if you show them real women who have been Photoshopped? This campaign was suppose to be revolutionary, however Dove has not done anything different from any other advertisers. In fact I think what they did is worse than showing a perfect model, they showed these women and told viewers they were real and untouched when in reality they were not. How would this campaign be seen any differently from others if people really new how much the videos and the images had been altered.I don’t know how this would make a women feel any better about herself or begin to identify herself as beautiful.


Does Dove use Photoshop in its ‘Real Beauty’ campaign? (2014, August 8). Retrieved March 7, 2015, from

Celebre, A., & Waggoner Denton, A. (n.d.). The good, the bad, and the ugly of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. Retrieved March 7, 2015, from

Plaisance, P. (n.d.). Transparency. In Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice (p. 85).


Blog Post #1 Taking Stock

All of the concerns identified in the Cooper article were discussed in the mini interviews conducted. Cooper talks about the increase of sex and violence on TV, something that my grandfather talked extensively about. He feels as thought the increase of violence is unnecessary and that violence to this degree should not be used as entertainment. Recent father, Alan is now starting to notice how easy it is for children to access content that they shouldn’t have access to. Another main point identified by Cooper and the people I interviewed was advertising. Everyday we are constantly bombarded with thousands of advertisement and messages. This was one of the points my mother felt most strongly about, she does not like the amount of advertisements shown. She thinks there are far too many messages pushed upon us everyday, a point that my grandfather also agreed with. He thinks the evolution of TV has been incredible and he told me that he doesn’t understand the volume of advertisements compared to when he first started watching TV almost fifty years ago. My mom’s boyfriend disagrees; he is okay with the amount of advertising shown in media today. He says if you don’t like it, there isn’t much to do about it. Although these points were discussed during the interviews, the majority of my conversations with the interviewees were about credibility.

When asked about their news channel of choice, various outlets were named. My mother prefers CNN to other news sources, however my grandfather prefers newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal. My boss, Alan prefers watching Fox News. All solidified the notion that people watch news sources that reflect their views.

The case study used was about NBC Nightly News reporter, Brian Williams. Williams lied about being aboard a helicopter that was struck during the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. He was in fact no on board the one that was hit, he later admitted but was riding in the helicopter following the one that was struck. This information surfaced while NBC Nightly News ran a story about Sargent Major Tim Terpak who was aboard the helicopter hit in 2003. Not everyone interviewed was familiar with this situation so they needed to be briefed about it. My boss, Alan said that he generally trusts the information on the news and online sources so he was surprised by this case study. He is slowly becoming aware of the problems in credibility. Alan said that he believed Brian Williams to be a credible new source until this recent situation. My mother says that she does not trust the news anymore because of the numerous lies that have surfaced such as the Brian Williams case. Not only does she believe the stories to not be credible but she also believes that news stations tend to repeat the same stories, making her loose interest. She says she’s seen too much coverage of the Brian Williams story and not enough of other problems. My mom’s boyfriend, Norman believes that situations like the one with Brian Williams just further proves that more regulations need to be enforced in media. My boyfriend, Sam said that unfortunately he is not surprised by the Brian Williams story since it is obviously not the first time we have seen something like this happen. He talked a lot about how difficult it is to find a news source that he trusts. My grandfather stated that he used to trust the information that he was exposed to but he no longer trusts it, he does not think news sources are credible anymore, he thinks the reports and news have turned into a form of entertainment and that makes him skeptical. It seems as though every generation feels the same about the problems of credibility and validity of the news shown.



Shepard, D. (2015, February 4). NBC News anchor Brian Williams admits he was not aboard helicopter fired on in Iraq: Videos. Retrieved February 25, 2015, from