RESOLVING ETHICAL BUSINESS CHALLENGES *
Daniel just graduated from Michigan University and landed a job as a copywriter at Young, Olsen, Lindle, and Olson (YOLO) Advertising assigned to one of the subsidiary accounts of Delicious Uber Bacon Ingredients Extraordinaire Corporation. This conglomerate was primarily a food processing manufacturer beginning one hundred years ago with pork in the Midwest. Overall corporate sales of beef, chicken, pork, and seafood were more than $ 750 million each year. YOLO considered many advertising options and opted for a celebrity spokesperson. That meant Daniel would work with Gloria Kunies as the celebrity endorser. Ms. Kunies is a well-known, well-loved, young, and vibrant actress with a large younger following. Chloe, President of YOLO, asked Daniel to step into her office. “Daniel, this new account is a good start for you. We usually don’t let our new copywriters handle accounts by themselves, but you have proven to be a capable employee. Your job on this account is to write copy for the commercials using Ms. Kunies’ product testimonials. The copy needs to be crafted as a testimonial, targeting the market of seventeen to thirty-yearolds. Ms. Kunies already signed an affidavit as to being a bona fide user of the product. The scripts should feature her testifying to the quality, value, and tastiness of the bacon. I want you to meet her tomorrow so you can start the writing process and understand her personality in order to script the messages. Spend the rest of the day immersing yourself in her biography and researching her on the Internet.” As Daniel left Chole’s office he remembered a Facebook post about Ms. Kunies being a vegetarian. The next day at their meeting, Daniel asked her if she had actually tasted the bacon. Ms. Kunies replied, “Why yes, technically and legally I have tried Uber. In fact, I’ve been a huge fan since I was a kid. Bacon is my favorite food. I’ve done several testimonials in the past and know the American Advertising Federation (AAF) rules. I know as RESOLVING ETHICAL BUSINESS CHALLENGES * long as my comments are based on verifiable personal use, the message cannot be challenged as deceptive. In fact, Uber bacon has been a favorite of mine since I was young. It wasn’t until a month ago I became a vegetarian. Eating all that bacon for decades really did a number on my cholesterol.” “So, you feel comfortable about endorsing Uber even though you don’t eat it now?” asked Daniel. “No question about it. As far as bacon goes, Uber is second to none in taste. If people are going to eat bacon, why not eat the best? Even if it is a heart attack waiting to happen,” Ms. Kunies joked. The next day Chloe asked Daniel how it went. He explained their conversation and expressed concern over the fact Ms. Kunies is currently a vegetarian, and she attributed her high cholesterol to Uber bacon. Daniel felt relief when he saw the concern in Chloe’s face, but soon realized her concern was about Ms. Kunies pulling out of the advertisement. Daniel reassured Chloe Ms. Kunies still wanted to promote the product, but it seemed like a contradiction to have a vegetarian promoting bacon. Chloe responded by saying as long as Ms. Kunies had eaten the bacon at some point in her life and thinks it is a good product, it makes no difference as to whether she currently eats the bacon. She continued, “Sometimes in advertising, you have to add a spin to the message you are communicating so it fits with the product you are selling. Not only are you selling a product, but more importantly, you are selling an experience, a feeling, an idea that appeals to consumers.” As Daniel walked home that evening, he wondered how he was going to write this advertisement. He did not want to begin his career in a dishonest manner, but he also wanted to produce work that pleased his boss. He tried to think of creative ways to mask the contradiction of the advertisement. Maybe with humor? He asked himself if this approach would still feel dishonest. The next morning Daniel was going to meet with both Ms. Kunies and Chloe about what he had written thus far.
QUESTIONS | EXERCISES
1. Describe the ethical issues that David is encountering.
2. Does this situation in any way violate the concepts of fairness, honesty, and integrity?
3. If the advertisement does not violate any laws, then why should Daniel be concerned? What are the possible consequences of the advertisement?